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Ann Intern Med. 2019 Oct 1. doi: 10.7326/M18-1138. [Epub ahead of print]

Variation in Prescription Drug Prices by Retail Pharmacy Type: A National Cross-sectional Study.

Author information

1
Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts (J.L., M.K., A.S., A.P., A.S.K.).

Abstract

Background:

Cash prices for prescription drugs vary widely in the United States.

Objective:

To describe cash price variation by retail pharmacy type for 10 generic and 6 brand-name drugs throughout the United States and stratified by ZIP code.

Design:

Cross-sectional study.

Setting:

Drug pricing data from GoodRx, an online tool for comparing drug prices, representing more than 60 000 U.S. pharmacies (fall 2015).

Measurements:

Cash prices for a 1-month supply of generic and brand-name drugs were ascertained. Stratified by ZIP code, relative cash prices for groups of generic and brand-name drugs were estimated for big box, grocery-based, small chain, and independent pharmacies compared with a reference group of large chain pharmacies.

Results:

Across 16 325 ZIP codes, 68 353 unique pharmacy stores contributed cash prices. When stratified by 5-digit ZIP code, the relative cash prices for generic drugs at big box, grocery-based, small chain, and independent pharmacies compared with those at large chain pharmacies were 0.52 (95% CI, 0.51 to 0.53), 0.82 (CI, 0.81 to 0.83), 1.51 (CI, 1.45 to 1.56), and 1.61 (CI, 1.58 to 1.64), respectively. The relative cash prices for brand-name drugs were 0.97 (CI, 0.96 to 0.97), 1.00 (CI, 0.99 to 1.00), 1.06 (CI, 1.05 to 1.08), and 1.03 (CI, 1.02 to 1.04), respectively.

Limitation:

Results may not reflect current drug prices and do not account for point-of-sale discounts or price matching that may be offered by smaller pharmacies.

Conclusion:

Compared with large chains, independent pharmacies and small chains had the highest cash prices for generic drugs and big box pharmacies the lowest. Relative differences in cash prices for brand-name drugs were modest across types of retail pharmacies.

Primary Funding Source:

Arnold Ventures.

PMID:
31569218
DOI:
10.7326/M18-1138

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