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Dear Jon: Every pharmacy is not created equal

By Jon K. Brent, Anchor, jonkbrent@kionrightnow.com
Published On: Mar 03 2014 04:05:33 PM CST
dear jon pharmacy 1

All pharmacies are not created equal

Being “taken” at the pharmacy is happening more and more. I’m talking about price gouging and literal “rip off” schemes. Liz wrote to me and asks, “Dear Jon, I think I'm paying too much at the pharmacy. How can I tell?”

From the question it sounds like Liz knows what she should be paying, but questions what she’s being charged. This issue has become more and more common.

After doing research on this question, what I’ve found is pricing varies widely from pharmacy to pharmacy. Differences in independent pharmacies are widespread and the same goes for the big-box retailers. So you have to be a savvy shopper at the pharmacy too. There are things you can do to protect yourself and your wallet at the pharmacy.

So what’s going on? Here’s one scheme I’ve recently uncovered on the Central Coast. Customers find an online price for their drug at their favorite big-box retailer and then when they walk into the pharmacy at the store, they are quoted a much higher price than the online price. That's a rip off! When customers spoke up and said “no, your online price says ‘x’”, the clerk says wait a minute and speaks to the Pharmacist and then comes back with another price much lower but still higher than the online price. Yes, it happens and you need to be cautious. You need to speak up and call the pharmacy out on that if it happens to you! Do you really want to patronize a pharmacy that tries to steal from you?

The most comprehensive shopper information on this topic that I’ve found is from Consumer Reports. Their first suggestion for you from a recent study on choosing a pharmacy is to speak up!

They've found that if you ask for a better deal, you may get a discount in some form or another. And in the case of a blatant attempt to overcharge you, the fact that you question them will put them on the defensive. Pharmacists can even suggest cheaper generic substitutions.

Another option is to pay cash. It may be that not using your insurance card can actually lower the cost of certain drugs. Ask the clerk to compare your insurance cost with the cash price.

You can also earn discounts at the big pharmacy chains through rewards programs. Filling 90-day prescriptions allows you to save yourself two co-pays, and shop around for a lower price if you pay out of pocket.

The key is to be a savvy shopper at the pharmacy and know what you should be paying upfront. If it seems too high a price many times it is and you can call around for a lower price.

Remember, if it doesn't sound right, speak up. And if you don't get satisfaction, try another pharmacy.

Again, all pharmacies are not created equal. Do yourself a favor and save yourself some money by putting the effort into which pharmacy will serve your wallet the best.

If you have a question for me, send me an email on the link above or you can message me on Facebook at "Jon K Brent KIONKCOY” or Twitter at “DearJonKBrent.”