News 4 investigates: Prices for prescription drugs may vary by pharmacy

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by Mike Colombo / News 4 and Dan Greenwald / KMOV.com

KMOV.com

Posted on April 30, 2014 at 4:52 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 30 at 11:03 PM

(KMOV.com) – News 4 has learned prices of prescription medication may vary based on where you purchase it.

News 4 learned about the differences when local business owner Dan Spangler found out he could pay two different prices for the same medicine at two different drug stores.

Spangler’s doctor recently prescribed Quetiapine. When Spangler, who is uninsured, went to Walgreens, he found out he would have to pay a price he considered to be outrageous.

“They called it into Walgreens because it’s convenient and I went there and they said it was $379.  I asked was that for a month and they said yeah and I said, well I can't afford that."

Spangler’s doctor then called the prescription into another pharmacy, where Spangler found that he could get the same medicine at a significantly reduced price.

"They called Medicine Shoppe and said it was $50 for same thing. I had a hard time believing it, went there picked it up and sure enough it was $50," Spangler said.

News 4 asked Walgreens why the price was much more expensive at their store than at Medicine Shoppe, but the chain did not provide an answer.

Quetiapine is a generic drug, which would normally mean it would be cheaper than non-generic drugs. North St. Louis County pharmacist Chris Geronsin said there has been a lot of consolidation among drug manufacturers, and domestic drug companies are also cracking down on foreign competition, which is driving prices up.

"Lanoxin, Digoxin, etc. Things patients take every day have gone up 10-fold, 20-fold, sometimes 25-fold, and basically overnight,” Geronsin said. "Instead of four manufacturers, we have two and they can't meet demand, so prices go up.

News 4 called 11 St. Louis area pharmacies, which included nine chains and two independent stores, to see how much the same medication that Spangler wants would cost.

News 4 found it would cost $387 at Target, $302 at CVS and Schnucks, $248 at Shop 'n Save, $139 at Wal Mart, $112 at Sam's Club, $61 at Dierbergs, $49 at Beverly Hills Pharmacy, $42 at Medicine Shoppe, and $30 at St. Louis Hills Pharmacy.

Geronsin said it is important to ask the pharmacist for help if the price of medication is too high.

"My recommendation is know your pharmacists, ask questions, we want to help," Geronsin said.

Many pharmacies also offer discount programs. While shopping around can save you money, Geronsin said it is important to choose one pharmacy and stick with it so the pharmacist can monitor your medication.

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