Drug Price Website Expanded To All Counties

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that his office's drug price website has been expanded to include pharmacies within every county in New York State.

Spitzer also announced that his office's most recent statewide survey found that prices for commonly prescribed medications can often vary more than $100 per prescription depending on where they are purchased.

"We were surprised, as I think most consumers would be, at the enormity of the price gaps for commonly purchased drugs," said Spitzer. "With information from this website, consumers, especially seniors on fixed incomes, the uninsured and those lacking adequate prescription drug coverage, can comparison shop and keep their costs as low as possible."

Since July 2004, Spitzer's office has surveyed 440 pharmacies in all 62 counties across the state to determine the prices of the 25 most commonly prescribed drugs. In September, staffers from Spitzer's office visited 230 randomly-selected pharmacies in 44 counties asking for each pharmacy's Drug Retail Price List of the 150 most frequently prescribed drugs. State law requires pharmacies to supply this list to consumers on request. State law also requires pharmacies to prominently post a sign informing consumers that its Drug Retail Price List is available. Spitzer's staff reviewed the lists from surveyed pharmacies and posted the prices of the 25 most commonly prescribed drugs at http://rx.nyhealth.gov/pdpw/SearchDrugs/Home.action.

A review of the retail prices for these drugs found wide price variations across the state, within a county and even at pharmacies a few miles apart.

For example, across New York State:

  • Zocor (dosage: 20mg; quantity: 30) a competing cholesterol reducing drug, was $116.15 at a Westchester county pharmacy and $206.32 at a Clinton county pharmacy, a difference of more than $90.

  • Prevacid (dosage: 30 mg; quantity: 30) commonly prescribed for heartburn and acid reflux, was $118.88 at a Westchester County pharmacy and $195.90 at a Seneca county pharmacy, a difference of about $ 77.

  • Celebrex (dosage: 200mg; quantity: 30) frequently prescribed to relieve arthritis pain, especially for seniors, was $60.65 at a Wyoming County pharmacy and $131.99 at a Lewis County pharmacy, a difference of more than $71.

  • Flovent (dosage: 220mcg/A; quantity: 13) frequently prescribed for asthma was $117.79 at a Suffolk County pharmacy and $184.98 at a Ontario County pharmacy, a difference of more than $67.

  • Zoloft (dosage: 50mg; quantity: 30) a widely prescribed drug for depression and anxiety was $67.97 at a Essex County pharmacy and $111.21 at a Cattaraugus County pharmacy, a difference of about $43.

The lesson here is simple -- a good way to keep your prescription prices down is to shop for the best price," Spitzer said. "If you see a lower price for one of your medications on our website, you may want to ask your pharmacy if they will match the lower price."

To make comparing prescription drug prices more accessible to New Yorkers, the prescription comparison drug site can also be accessed at www.NEWYORK.com.

Additionally, Spitzer offered the following 4-step checklist for consumers trying to shop wisely for their prescriptions:

  1. SHOP AROUND. Prescription drug prices may vary widely from pharmacy to pharmacy and county to county.

  2. ASK FOR THE DRUG RETAIL PRICE LIST. Under New York law, every pharmacy is required to give a print-out of the retail prices of its 150 most commonly prescribed drugs. If your medication is not listed, ask your pharmacist for the pricing information and compare prices.

  3. PRICE MATCH. Some pharmacies offer to match prices offered by another pharmacy in the area. If you find lower prices at other pharmacies, do not hesitate to ask if your pharmacy will match the lower prices.

  4. VISIT. http://rx.nyhealth.gov/pdpw/SearchDrugs/Home.action for prescription drug price comparison information of surveyed pharmacies. The website also includes a pharmacy locator that allows consumers to search for local pharmacies; helpful information for consumers about how to shop for prescription drugs; and links to public and private programs that offer discounted or free medication and information about the proper use of prescription drugs.

Spitzer noted that nearly 5.6 million New Yorkers lacked insurance at some point in the last year and paid the full price for their medications out of their own pockets. Also, many New Yorkers with insurance lack adequate prescription drug coverage and must buy their medications at full price.

The NYAGRx survey and website are a pilot program intended to provide New Yorkers information to help manage prescription drug costs. Periodic updates of data on the website may include a different mix of medications, pharmacies and counties.

The NYAGRx survey and website project is being handled jointly by staff from the Attorney General's Health Care Bureau, the Legal Technology & Systems Management Bureau and the Division of Regional Offices led by Health Care Bureau Director of Policy and Research Rashmi Vasisht.

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