Report: Prescription prices vary widely among pharmacies

Sep 5, 2018

A new report from the New York Public Interest Research Group finds the cost of prescription drugs can vary widely among pharmacies, even within the same region.

The report published Tuesday, entitled "Buyer Beware," found instances where the same drug was sold at one pharmacy at prices that were $150 or more higher than at others.

Credit Nexium

The report analyzed prices from a state health department website on drug pricing. In one example from Buffalo, a popular inhaler had the greatest range in price, from a high of $177.17 to a low of $44.59 – a  difference of $132.58.

In Syracuse, a popular heartburn medication was sold at prices that ranged from a low of $189 to a high of $349 – a difference of $160. The same drug had the greatest range in price in Ithaca and in Suffolk County.

In Albany, Binghamton, Rochester, Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, Nassau County and Westchester County, another popular drug to help people with breathing problems saw the greatest range in prices - a difference as much as $207.

"These price differences within the regions of New York underscore the financial threat posed to residents who lack prescription drug coverage," NYPIRG says. "For those individuals, checking the state’s website can save a bundle, but that can only work if they know of the website’s existence."

Credit Advair

The report also found that many pharmacies fail to display the drug price website address, "as required by law." NYPIRG says it conducted a spot check of pharmacies across New York State, to test whether consumers could easily find the required website posting.

"We found 12 of 29 pharmacies had signs displaying the state’s drug price website," the report says. "In addition, when the web address was observed, it was difficult to understand the value of the site and the URL itself was difficult to remember."

The report recommends that the state Health Department use its own database to check for pharmacies charging unusually high drug prices and conduct audits to ensure compliance with regulations. The report also recommends the state do a better job of making sure consumers have information about drug pricing.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.