NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 16, 2006

Patients can cut costs substantially by becoming aggressive consumers.  In fact, they can reduce the cost of some common drug therapies by more than 90 percent if they use the same buying techniques they routinely use when shopping for other goods and services, says Devon Herrick, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA). 

How much can patients expect to save by using these techniques?  The NCPA reviewed prices of Web-based pharmacies during 2006 and found they varied widely.  Take the cardiovascular drug, Tenormin, for example: 

  • The NCPA survey found that the price of 100 (50mg) doses of Tenormin ranged from $139.74 at to $125.49 
  • But patients could save nearly 90 percent over the lowest cost brand-name drug by switching to the generic alternative, Atenolol; 100 doses of the generic drug ranged from $19.98 if purchased through Walgreens to $8.29 at 
  • Finally, consumers could save another 32 percent (from $8.29 to $5.65) by buying larger, 100mg pills and splitting them in half.
  • Therefore, smart buying lowered the potential overall cost from a high of $139.74 to a low of $5.65 -- a 96 percent saving. 

For another example of potential savings, consider the heartburn drug, Nexium:

  • If purchased in small quantities -- 30 capsules at a time -- from,  Nexium costs about $493.33 per 100 doses; however, a shopper buying from would pay $434.67 for 100 capsules, a 12 percent saving. 
  • Buying the generic equivalent of a therapeutic substitute, such as Omeprazole, would only cost $65.79. 
  • Furthermore, Prilosec OTC, a branded form of the generic drug Omeprazole, is now available over the counter; a savvy consumer opting to pay $61.88 for a 100-day supply from would save 87 percent off the most expensive option.

Source: Devon Herrick, "Shopping for Drugs: 2007," National Center for Policy Analysis, NCPA Policy Report No. 293, November 2006.

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