Sorrell launches drug price information program

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(Host) A new report from the Attorney General’s office concludes that there’s a big variation in the cost of the most popular prescription drugs in Vermont.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell launched a new program on his website today that makes the pricing information available to the public for the first time.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The report clearly shows that the price that consumers pay for many prescription drugs depends largely on where the drugs are bought.

The information is based on the cash price that pharmacies charge for the 90 most popular drugs that are prescribed through the Medicaid program.

For instance, in Rutland County, the price of Lipitor, a popular drug for patients with high cholesterol, varies by almost $40 for a month’s supply.

In Windham County, the cost of Nexium, a drug that deals with stomach acid, can vary by as much as $85 for a 60-pill supply.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell says his office is making all of this information available at his website to help the public make informed decisions about buying prescription drugs:

(Sorrell) “A smart consumer buying pharmaceuticals can save an awful lot of money in this state. And today we’re happy to unveil an on line comparison shopping tool for Vermonters that they can easily take a look at prices for individual drugs among pharmacies in their town or in their county in the state.”

(Kinzel) Sorrell says he also hopes that making this information available will have an impact on the pharmacies:

(Sorrell) “Market prices competition. We hope that it’s not just consumers who are going to use this website, that pharmacies will show how they compare and that they hopefully will make pricing decisions to make customers come in to buy their drugs at their store more attractive.”

(Kinzel) Rich Harvie is the chief pharmacist at the Montpelier Pharmacy – an independent drug store in downtown Montpelier.

He thinks the website pricing guide is a good idea:

(Harvie) “I think consumers definitely have a right to know. I am certainly in favor of that. If consumers give me half a chance to be competitive, usually I can be. As far as I’m concerned, from a business stand point, it’s fine. People need to make sure that when they’re getting a prescription it’s more than just the actual prescription you’re getting. It’s the relationship you have with the pharmacist and bunch of other things.”

(Kinzel) The Attorney General’s website also includes information about pharmaceutical assistance programs that are available through the state of Vermont, Medicare and the drug companies.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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