Consumer Alert: Generic drugs

(National-Consumer Reports) November 29, 2006 - Several big-name prescription drugs have gone generic this year, including the antidepressant Zoloft, and the cholesterol-fighters Zocor and Pravachol.

That means major savings for anyone who pays out of pocket for those medicines. But just because you buy generic drugs doesn't mean you're getting the best deal.

We all know generic drugs are a lot cheaper than their brand-name versions. Take Prozac - a year's supply of the generic averages $433. Prozac averages more than four times that, $1,863.

But Consumer Reports says, despite big savings for generics, you can easily pay more than you need to. Dr. Martin M. Lipman says, "We did price comparisons at 132 pharmacies across the country. Those included drug store chains, independent pharmacies, mass merchants, supermarkets, as well as online pharmacies."

The price check covered five common generic prescription drugs:

  • Lisinopril for blood pressure
  • Lovastatin for cholesterol
  • Metformin for diabetes
  • The blood thinner Warfarin
  • Fluoxetine, the generic version of Prozac

Consumer Reports found big price differences for a 30-day supply of the drugs. According to Dr. Lipman, "The range of prices for these five generic drugs varied widely at independent pharmacies, anywhere from $82 to $295."

At drugstore chains, there were significant price differences, too. The median price for the five drugs at CVS was $116. At Walgreens, it's $157. And at Rite-Aid it's $162.

Consumer Reports found buying the generic drugs online is often one of the best deals, but not always.

Ordering from Cigna Teldrug's website turned out to be very pricey, $228 for the five drugs. Costco stores had the best prices, just $48 for the same five generic drugs.

And, although Costco usually requires a membership, you don't need to be a member to shop either at its online pharmacy or at the pharmacy located in its stores.

Consumer Reports found Wal-Mart charged more than twice as much as Costco for the five generic drugs.

But Wal-Mart recently announced a nationwide program to sell some popular generic drugs for as little as $4 for a 30-day supply.

Posted 10:39pm by Chantelle Janelle

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