Expert advice - How to save on your prescription drug purchases

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Everyday, we are called upon to make wise decisions regarding our financial resources and we endeavor to act as responsible consumers. However, we don't always show the same inclination when it comes to health services and products. A case in point is the popular belief that the cost of prescription drugs varies little from one pharmacy to another.

Although in Quebec, a pharmacist must charge the same price to all of his clients, regardless of which private insurance carrier they are covered by (the cost of prescription drugs for those insured under the Public Plan are negotiated directly with the Régie de l’assurance-maladie du Québec) this does not hold true between pharmacies and results in significant price differences between pharmacies for the same prescription drugs.

A breakdown of the cost of a prescription drug reveals four (4) components:

  1. Ingredients
  2. Distribution charges
  3. Pharmacist's profit margin
  4. Pharmacist's dispensing fee

In Quebec, pharmacists do not detail the cost of each separate component. Although the cost of ingredients and distribution charges are similar from one location to another, a significant difference in cost can exist in the last two components, the pharmacist's profit margin and dispensing fee.

What is the lesson to be learned? As a responsible consumer, take the time to shop around for your prescription drugs: a few phone calls may reveal sizeable cost differences for many drugs you consume. Remember: lower cost prescription drugs mean lower out-of-pocket expenses and lower premiums for your coverage!

By Vigilis