Online Ventures Seek to Lift the Veil on Generic Drug Prices

Pharmacy Times, April 2016 Respiratory Health, Volume 82, Issue 4

US consumers can add generic drug pricing comparisons to the list of tasks they can handle right from their smartphones.

US consumers can add generic drug pricing comparisons to the list of tasks they can handle right from their smartphones. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that up to 45% of US patients have difficulty paying for prescriptions and 26% of patients do not end up filling their prescriptions due to cost. Often, prescribers are unaware of how much it costs to fill the prescriptions they write, and drug prices can vary dramatically at pharmacies. The cost of a prescription can differ by more than $100 between 2 pharmacies located directly across the street from one another.

To close this information gap, online entrepreneurs have set out to change the way consumers fill their prescriptions by disclosing the lowest prices for generics drugs. They are unable to provide much help with respect to branded drugs.

One company, GoodRx, collects drug prices at pharmacies across the United States and connects consumers with coupons to help them pay. Prices and discounts are updated each week based on information from pharmacies, drug manufacturers, and other sources. GoodRx requires no personal information to search for drugs and does not sell health information.

Another company, Blink Health, allows patients to pay for their prescriptions online and pick them up at any major pharmacy, including CVS Health, Walgreen’s, Walmart, Kroger, Duane Reade, and Target. On Blink Health’s site, 10 of the 15 most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States cost less than $10.

According to GoodRx, the listed price for the generic version of Lipitor, a cholesterol management drug that is among the most commonly prescribed in the United States, is $196 at Kmart and $61 at Kroger. A coupon from the site allows patients to purchase the drug for about $12. Blink Health offers generic Lipitor for $9.94.

The 2 tech companies are providing solutions to generic drug pricing transparency—one of the most contentious issues in health care today. Industry stakeholders, pharmacies, and even members of Congress have been clamoring for legislation to mandate transparency in the pharmacy benefits management arena, but so far have made negligible progress.

IMS Health data show almost 90% of prescriptions filled in the United States are for generic drugs, so a more transparent pricing system for generic drugs could have widespread implications on patient access to needed medications and the overall cost of care.