Even after several generic makers enter the market, retail pharmacies such as CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens sometimes keep the list price of a new generic set high, a practice Schondelmeyer refers to as “sticky pricing.”
That's one of several reasons Consumer Reports has found that many people are paying more for their medications.
“While some pharmacies drop the price as generics enter the market, others will hold it near the brand-name price as long as possible.” They get away with it, he says, because many customers who have health insurance pay a set co-pay regardless of the retail price. But those consumers who pay the entire cost of the drug themselves because they don’t have insurance or have a high deductible may not see the substantial savings that should come with generic availability.
Last year, Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs' pricing survey found lots of sticky pricing when secret shoppers called to check the price of common generic medications at more than 200 drugstores around the U.S. For example, they discovered that CVS drugstores still priced the cholesterol-lowering drug atorvastatin (the generic version of Lipitor) at $146 for 30 days worth, even though generic versions have been available since the fall of 2011. On the other hand, Costco’s price for the same drug was $18.
The lesson here, says Schondelmeyer, is that people who don't have good prescription drug coverage have to shop around. “Don’t assume that just because there is a generic, that it is a lot cheaper than the branded version, or that you’re getting a great deal,” he says.
In the case of generic Crestor, check prices again after the drug has been available for six months to a year as, over time, some generic drugmakers and drugstores are bound to reduce the price more than others.
See more tips for ways to save on prescription drugs.