Report: Prices for generic prescription drugs can vary dramatically

March 28, 2013 4:56:15 PM PDT
Many people are choosing to save money by taking generic versions of popular medication such as Lipitor or Lexapro. But Consumer Reports has discovered that just because you're buying a generic doesn't mean you're getting a great price.

Atorvastatin, the generic for Lipitor, is now widely prescribed to combat high cholesterol. Consumer Reports checked out prices of atorvastatin at more than 200 pharmacies. Their report includes Walgreens, CVS, Target, Walmart, and Costco, as well as independent and supermarket pharmacies and online.

"We found that prices for Atorvastatin varied tremendously depending on where you got the prescription filled," Consumer Reports' Lisa Gill said.

Among chain stores, atorvastatin cost the most at CVS -- $150 for a month's supply. Costco had the best price, $17. You don't have to be a Costco member to use its pharmacy, and Consumer Reports found it also had low prices for other blockbuster drugs that have recently gone generic. Those drugs were the generics of Actos, for Type 2 diabetes; Lexapro, for depression; Singulair, for asthma; and Plavix, a blood thinner.

"So with the five prescription drugs that we checked, CVS tended to be the most expensive. RiteAid and Target weren't much cheaper," Gill said.

As for Walmart, it fell somewhere in the middle of the pack.

But two online retailers also offered good deals: Healthwarehouse and FamilyMeds.

"No matter what drug you're prescribed, don't be afraid to talk to your doctor about costs. You may be able to get a lower-priced alternative to treat your condition," Gill said.

And Consumer Reports says don't forget to check independent and supermarket pharmacies. In some cases, Consumer Reports found their prices were even lower than Costco.

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