Generic Drug Prices—All Over the Map

Did you know that the price you pay for a generic drug can vary by as much as 447 percent (or $749) depending on where you shop? When Consumer Reports called 200 pharmacies around the country to get prices for five blockbuster drugs that had recently gone off patent their investigators found that a month’s supply of generic Lexapro (the antidepressant escitalopram) cost just $7 at Costco yet $119 at RiteAid. Generic Lipitor (the cholesterol-lowering atorvastatin), was $15 at the online FamilyMeds.com and $144 at Target.

Naomi Freundlich has written an outstanding post about the wild variations in pricing on ReformingHealth.org. There, where she reveals that even a breast cancer drug can fetch $450 at one store (CVS) and $14 at a “local, independent drug store.”

Freundlich concludes that such disparities are not a sign of “free market competition.”“Without price transparency there is no free market —only bargains for those with the means to research prices or those lucky enough to use a nearby pharmacy that offers lower prices on generic drugs. For the millions of other Americans—many uninsured or with large deductibles—who have never considered that prices on their generic medications could vary so dramatically, the so-called free market is a sham.”

I would add that just as the government regulates prices for other necessities –namely gas and electricity—we should join the rest of the developed world, and regulate drug prices

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