Same Prescription, Different Prescription Prices. Can that Be Right?

Continuing Series: Questions from Consumers …


There is a lot of confusion around the topic of retail prescription prices. For example, why the exact same prescription can vary in price depending on the state and city you live in, the day on which you purchase and the pharmacy or drugstore you use, even if they are located on the same block or next to each other. Before answering this question, here are a few key facts.

The Facts:

The reasons cited for the varying prescription costs are usually focused on the “greedy pharmaceutical companies”, the drugstores and pharmacies and, of course, the government. However the factors that actually do contribute to these fluctuations are:

Cost of doing business
What a business must spend to stay in business is often influenced by where they are doing business, and how the local economy is trending. Add to that, the cost to the store, to purchase the medication from a manufacturer or distributor. This will influence the cost to consumers and will contribute to the flux in pricing by day, location and store.

Supply and demand
For example, consider that at the height of the flu season more people are going to be seeking out either the vaccine or other helpful prescription medicines like Tamiflu. This demand plays a factor on the cost of these drugs. As well, given this year a bad pollen season is predicted, we will most likely see the prices of prescription allergy medicines go up. So, more people needing or wanting specific medications drives demand, which impacts the availability of the drug, which then drives the cost change.

Negotiations between insurance companies and pharmacies
People with insurance, who don’t have flat (i.e., have varying) co-pays on their prescriptions, find that their costs go up and down as well. This is due in part to the reasons cited above but also, to the fact that their insurance company renegotiates with pharmacies.

This is just a broad stroke to get the conversation started. The complex network and the diversity of factors that contribute to what consumers end up paying for, whether generic or brand medicines, is a conversation that we hope to explore in this on-going multi-part series. According to several articles by medical professionals, “much more could be done to deal with the unregulated prescription drug prices pharmaceutical manufacturers are allowed to charge, and to establish fair and reasonable reimbursement costs for new medications.”

If you are on prescribed medications for any condition, and you need help affording your prescriptions, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request your card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone.

Reference: Consumer Reports,, The True Cost of Healthcare, CDC, Kevin MD, NYTimes

By WHBlogger
Updated: 1/18/19

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.

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