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The American Journal of Managed Care July 2017
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Availability and Variation of Publicly Reported Prescription Drug Prices
Jeffrey T. Kullgren, MD, MS, MPH; Joel E. Segel, PhD; Timothy A. Peterson, MD, MBA; A. Mark Fendrick, MD; and Simone Singh, PhD
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Availability and Variation of Publicly Reported Prescription Drug Prices

Jeffrey T. Kullgren, MD, MS, MPH; Joel E. Segel, PhD; Timothy A. Peterson, MD, MBA; A. Mark Fendrick, MD; and Simone Singh, PhD
Retail prices for commonly prescribed drugs are often absent from state prescription drug price websites, but when reported, can vary substantially.
To ensure comparability across medications and states, we limited our data collection to 7 medications for which prices were publicly reported in 4 states; however, these findings may not apply to all states or medications. Our estimate of price variation for each zip code was an upper bound, which would only translate into large OOP savings for consumers who switched from a higher cost pharmacy to a lower cost pharmacy. Our examination of zip code-level factors associated with greater price variability was limited to the factors that were in the zip code tabulation–area data we derived from the 2010 US Census. The price data we collected does not account for discounts that may apply at the point of sale and could impact the overall variability in prices. Such discounts were integrated into medication prices reported by GoodRx, a national website and smartphone app that allows consumers to view medication prices, coupons, discounts, and savings tips at nearby pharmacies. Because we did not collect data on the types of pharmacies reporting prices, we are unable to identify the characteristics of pharmacies associated with lower prices. Future research should examine how prices for prescription medications vary by type of pharmacy (eg, independent, chain, and discount).

CONCLUSIONS

Our study demonstrated that public reporting of retail prices for commonly prescribed prescription drugs was often incomplete. More consistent reporting of such prices could yield substantial savings for consumers who face high OOP expenditures. Policy makers should work to ensure retail prices for prescription drugs are reported comprehensively and consistently in order to develop new strategies to facilitate consumers’ use of this information.

Author Affiliations: VA Center for Clinical Management Research, VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System (JTK), Ann Arbor, MI; Department of Internal Medicine (JTK, AMF) and Department of Emergency Medicine (TAP), University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI; Department of Health Management and Policy, School of Public Health (AMF, SS), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, University of Michigan (JTK, TAP, AMF, SS), Ann Arbor, MI; Department of Health Policy and Administration, Pennsylvania State University (JES), State College, PA.

Source of Funding: This research was supported by a grant from MCubed at the University of Michigan. Support was also provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Health Services Research and Development Service. Dr Kullgren is a VA HSR&D Career Development awardee at the Ann Arbor VA.

Author Disclosures: The authors report no relationship or financial interest with any entity that would pose a conflict of interest with the subject matter of this article.

Authorship Information: Concept and design (JK, JES, TAP, AMF, SS); acquisition of data (JK, JES, SS); analysis and interpretation of data (JK, JES, TAP, AMF, SS); drafting of the manuscript (JK, JES, TAP, AMF, SS); critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content (JK, JES, TAP); statistical analysis (JK, JES); provision of patients or study materials (JK); obtaining funding (JK, TAP, SS); administrative, technical, or logistic support (JK); and supervision (JK).

Address Correspondence to: Jeffrey T. Kullgren, MD, MS, MPH, VA Center for Clinical Management Research, VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, PO Box 130170, Ann Arbor, MI 48113-0170. E-mail: jkullgre@med.umich.edu. 
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