A survey of more than two-dozen pharmacies around Iowa this year found prices for seven most commonly-prescribed drugs varied by as much as 675-percent. Three national consumer groups paid for the survey of both hometown drugstores and chain retailers in seven Iowa towns, and found the cost varied not only from city to city but from store to store. Ryan Ellis with “retiresafe-dot-org” says all seniors have to do is pick up a phone and ask around about prices, to save hundreds of dollars a year on the medicines they need. Ellis says it’s important to check the price of every prescription drug you’re taking, because a store with a low price on one medication may charge more than others for something else. Such price discrepancies came as a shock to Barbara McClintock, program manager at Polk County Senior and Food Services. McClintock says she found a group of colleagues she talked with had never thought about comparison-shopping for pharmaceutical prices, but she says we don’t buy the first car we see and people should shop around. It can be tough — Des Moines senior Alilce Montis says she and her husband together take 25 prescriptions a day and wouldn’t have the time to call around for prices on every one. She calls and gets an answer sometimes, Montis says, but sometimes she can’t, or the store tells her they won’t know the price till they “run it through” and fill her prescription. Montis says if a store won’t give her prices, she compares with friends at the senior center. But shopping around and having prescriptions filled at several different stores could lead to another problem: Jerry Karbeling at the Iowa Pharmacists Association says the professional druggist keeps track of all your medications to avoid interaction problems. He cites the example of a blood-thinner prescribed by one doctor that would conflict with arthritis medicine prescribed by another, a dangerous combination that if it’s not caught by the pharmacist could send the patient to the hospital — or worse. Karbeling says the pharmacists agree with Iowa seniors on a couple points — avoiding medicines brought in from outside U.S. borders, and not cutting back or skipping medication to save money.
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