CRANBURY, N.J.--There’s no single solution to rising drug costs, but few oppose letting consumers find good deals. The problem has been transparency—learning actual out-of-pocket costs isn’t so easy, since many Americans get their drugs through prescription plans, and prices can vary widely by location.
The new issue of The American Journal of Managed Care® features two articles examining aspects of the movement to empower consumers to shop for the best drug prices:
A study led by Jeffrey T. Kullgren, MD, MS, MPH, examines the accuracy of information on state prescription drug websites in Michigan, Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania, and finds them “often deficient.” Despite the growth of these sites, consumer use of this information remains low.
However, the study finds, “When prices are reported, there can be significant variation in the price of prescriptions, which could translate into substantial savings for consumers who pay out-of-pocket for prescription drugs.”
A second study, led by Sanjay Arora, MD, finds that the private sector may do a better job running a service that helps consumers compare prices for medications. Arora and co-authors used telephone calls and Web-based services to compare prices in specific geographic areas, and they found that this route—along with the ability to obtain discount coupons—was worth the trouble.
The best prices were found at grocery, chain, and big-box stores, and drug prices could vary dramatically. These sites may be most valuable not only to patients, but also to clinicians and patient advocates who have an incentive to share this information, “to improve adherence and lower the financial burden of purchasing prescription drugs.”
“The extent of price variation found in this study suggests that consumers could readily benefit from greater price transparency. If this information were widely available to consumers, large variations in drug prices across pharmacies would likely be reduced,” the authors concluded.
As value-based reimbursement takes hold, practices will have both clinical and financial incentives to know where patients can go for low-cost medications—because this information could make or break whether price-sensitive consumers stick with a drug.
About The American Journal of Managed Care®:
The American Journal of Managed Care® (AJMC®) is a peer-reviewed, MEDLINE-indexed journal that keeps readers on the forefront of health policy by publishing research relevant to industry decision makers as they work to promote the efficient delivery of high-quality care. AJMC.com is the essential website for managed care professionals, distributing industry updates daily to leading stakeholders. Other titles in the AJMC® family include The American Journal of Accountable Care® and two evidence-based series, Evidence-Based Oncology™ and Evidence-Based Diabetes Management™. These comprehensive offerings bring together stakeholder views from payers, providers, policymakers and other industry leaders in managed care. To order reprints of articles appearing in AJMC® publications, please contact Dr. Jeff Prescott at (609) 716-7777, x331.