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Ask your pharmacy for a price match

You might be able to score a deal.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 3:06AM

Recently I called a regional pharmacy to take advantage of its generic prescription program. Thyroid medication costs me $10 a month at my current pharmacy, but at the other store that same $10 would buy three months' worth of pills.


The phone rang a few minutes later. It was my current pharmacist, asking for another chance. 


He'd just heard from Fred Meyer about my plans to switch, and he offered to match the $10-for-three-months price. It would never have occurred to me to ask. 

The fact that he did offer made me want to suggest this tactic to readers: If you're thinking about switching to a generic prescription program, don't do so without asking your current pharmacy to match the price.


Keep the customer satisfied
After Wal-Mart introduced the $4-a-month generic prescription program back in 2006, other chains began to offer the same kind of plan. Businesses such as Meijer, Publix and Top Foods have even started to offer some prescription drugs, such as prenatal vitamins and certain antibiotics, completely free. 


However, not every pharmacy would automatically let you know about its generic price program. You had to know about it and ask for it.


This particular Safeway doesn't offer a $4/$10 generics program. When I expressed surprise that the pharmacist was willing to match the price, his response was, "We want to keep you as a customer." 


That makes sense. If you work with customers, then the next time they or their kids get sick they'll probably bring the new prescriptions to you.


Making the switch (or not)
Start by asking your physician whether any of the meds you take have generic equivalents. Check to see if they're part of the reduced-price generic programs at Wal-Mart, Target or other stores. The drug lists vary; some stores may have one of your drugs but not all of them, even if they're very common medications. 


If you find any of the drugs you take on these lists, then ask (politely) for a price match from your current pharmacy. The worst that can happen is that they'll say "no." If they do, feel free to transfer.


And if they say "yes," then you can keep all your meds in one place and not have to use extra gas, or extra time, driving from store to store. In my case, the two pharmacies in question are within about a mile and a half of each other; for a savings of $80 a year it would definitely have been worth the minor annoyance.


I'm also assuming that you've checked to see whether all of your maintenance medications are available in generic formulas. It's also a good idea to shop around for the best medication prices. Partner blog ConsumerAffairs.com notes that prices vary among stores in the same chain. 


In addition, I would suggest keeping your eyes peeled for new/transfer prescription offers, good for non-generics and also for short-term medications. Pharmacies really do want your business, and they frequently offer gift cards to get people to switch. If the price of medication at the new drugstore is comparable to what you're paying, then the gift card can be considered profit.

Published Jan. 7, 2009
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