info 03.19.09

Less is More Week: Meds

When MUG first wrote about prescription drugs in 1996, in our earlier print version, we compared the prices of nine commonly prescribed drugs at two pharmacies located within a few blocks of each other on the Upper East Side (both have since closed). For the exact same medications, same dosage, same everything, you would pay $513.91 for all nine at one pharmacy, and $1108.65 at the other.

Since then, some things have improved, some have not.

The not: According to the Department of Health, 1.5 million NYC residents are uninsured. And prescription drugs prices still vary wildly.

Cholesterol too high? You'll need some agita medication to go with your Lipitor prescription when you find out you've paid, for 20MG, 30 tabs, $204.99, when you could have paid $122.99 for the exactly the same thing at King's Pharmacy up on Third Avenue. You won't sleep as well at night knowing they got you for $612.94 for 30 tabs of 3MG Lunesta at the Pitkin Care Pharmacy in Brooklyn, when another Brooklyn pharmacy can and does fill the scrip for $127.69.

And get this: If you need the bipolar med Zyprexa, 5MG, 30 tabs, you could pay an unconscionable $906.48 at Tulsi Pharmacy on W. 181st or, about 20 blocks north, $234.65 at a pharmacy on Nagle Avenue.

What has improved is that information about drug prices is easier to come by. That's thanks to relatively new state laws requiring every pharmacy to post a list of prices for the 150 most commonly prescribed drugs, make copies of the list available to anyone who asks for one, and keep its drug prices updated on a website database. Many pharmacies do not comply, but enough do that you can get good information on the range of prices from the website. Check for your meds here.

Better living through chemistry, better shopping through technology…

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