Are pharmacy price lists available?
April 7, 2021 4:47 AM   Subscribe

What's the easiest way to find out what a bunch of different drugstore and grocery store chains will charge for a specific med? Insurance doesn't cover it, so I'm looking at the out-of-pocket cost, which seems to vary wildly from place to place. I don't just want to know who has a general reputation for being cheap — I only care about this one med. Am I stuck showing up and trying to fill it a bunch of different places, or is there a way to do price research ahead of time?
posted by nebulawindphone to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (Also: I checked and it's not on Walmart's $4 prescription list.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:51 AM on April 7, 2021

Look it up on GoodRx
posted by phunniemee at 4:51 AM on April 7, 2021 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Am I stuck showing up and trying to fill it a bunch of different places, or is there a way to do price research ahead of time?

I don’t know if there’s an all-in-one price list but surely the middle ground between that and “show up to a bunch of places and try to fill it” would just be “call them on the phone and ask them”?
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:56 AM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Look it up on GoodRx

This. GoodRx will give you the price at several pharmacies in your area. It can be pretty shocking how low some of the prices can be.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:56 AM on April 7, 2021 [5 favorites]

One note about GoodRx, though, which is that their prices are often “with coupon”, which you can print from their site (or probably get one your phone), and people sometimes report having trouble getting pharmacies to accept the coupon for certain prescriptions (I think I’ve only heard this with controlled substances), even while other people report no issues for the same medication.
posted by hoyland at 5:03 AM on April 7, 2021

Nthing GoodRX. We've had terrific luck (as in 100% worked in our attenpts and the prices matched each time)
posted by chasles at 5:39 AM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

You can call the pharmacy and ask. I’ve done this before and if it’s an expensive drug that isn’t covered by insurance, they’ll understand.
posted by A Blue Moon at 7:02 AM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I just got a prescription with GoodRX. It doesn't count toward your deductible, but in my case, when I hit my deductible, I pay 30% on prescriptions. The GoodRX price was 25% of the total cost, so even after my deductible GoodRX was the better price :)
posted by bbqturtle at 7:21 AM on April 7, 2021

Costco lists their drug prices online (and a few years ago, at least, you could use their pharmacy either online or in person without having a membership.) I think GoodRx usually includes them in their price aggregators, but I generally appreciate pharmacies being transparent about their self-pay prices and not making me call them or try to fill a script to find out.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:32 AM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: GoodRx is your answer in the US. You can use it anonymously with no signup.

Just to be clear; there are no specific prices for medications. Every prescription drug in the US costs a random different amount of money depending on how you purchase it. There is no normal market or rational pricing for prescription drugs.

If you walk in with a prescription but without any insurance at all there is a nominal retail price the pharmacy will charge you. It can vary by a factor of 100x depending on the pharmacy. I don't know of any place that collects those plain retail prices.

A couple of American companies are making a point of being very cheap for ordinary retail pricing. CostCo, Sam's Club, Walmart, Kmart, and some grocery stores like Safeway often have a flat rate for many common generic prescription medications. This works well for the drugs covered in their program. I believe you can find the prices by going to their websites.

Many folks buy prescriptions with some sort of insurance. Those prices are negotiated by the insurance company or increasingly, a third party called a pharmacy benefit manager. Usually they are lower prices than retail but not always. A special case of this is Medicare pricing which works more or less like other insurance pricing but at a larger scale. These prices are nominally only available to you if you are a member of that insurance company but a pharmacy might give you that pricing if you ask nicely. Also if your prescription price is too high, it's worth asking if retail is cheaper.

Which leads us to GoodRx. GoodRx is a pharmacy benefit manager but is not attached to any insurance company. They don't even require any membership, you can just use their "coupons" to get their pricing. The coupon is actuallys a Group and Bin code which identifies a particular PBM pricing. That's how your regular insurance pricing works too, it's just a different Bin. GoodRx is also handy in that they show their pricing at a lot of different outlets, so you can comparison shop. That's the simple case: GoodRx has complicated things now and they do have some clubs and different pricing with special signups. But the anonymous customer with coupon experience is still the norm and works well.

Nominally you can buy drugs with GoodRx pricing and then send the bill to your insurance company. They may reimburse the expense and/or apply the price to your deductible. Then again they may not; the insurance companies prefer you pay their PBM prices even if they are higher.

One complicating factor: generics. They are usually but not always cheaper than the brand names. If your prescription is for a brand name you might have to ask the pharmacy to also suggest generic pricing, or they might volunteer it.

And one last option: international mail-order (or in-person). This works great for drugs that are available as generics outside the US but not inside. For many years it was the way to get ED pills at $2 a dose instead of $40. I'm not aware of any comparison shopping sites for their prices and the market has some scamminess in it but mostly seems reliable. See other Ask Me posts for details.
posted by Nelson at 8:12 AM on April 7, 2021 [9 favorites]

Very late to this question, but for posterity: RxSaver is also an option, my understanding is that they they have different agreements with pharmacy benefits managers so may have different prices than GoodRx.
posted by theRussian at 7:39 PM on April 26, 2021

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