Office of Consumer Affairs Survey of Over-the-Counter Medication Finds Pharmacies, Name Brands Most Costly
Check of over 100 locations finds big-box stores, generics offer lower prices to consumers
BOSTON - February 22, 2012 - A survey by the Patrick-Murray Administration's Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation found pharmacies generally charge more for over-the-counter medication, and name-brands are significantly more expensive than generics.
The survey included over 100 pharmacy, supermarket and big-box locations for six chains across the state, checking prices on eight name-brand and seven generic drugs. The highest average prices of the eight name-brand drugs were all at CVS or Walgreens, and the lowest average prices of the name-brand drugs were at Walmart or Target. For the seven generics, all of the high prices but one was at the pharmacies, and all of the lowest prices were at Walmart or Target.
"Consumers have clear choices when it comes to shopping for drugs to help fight the sniffles and coughs of the winter season," said Barbara Anthony, the Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. "While convenience is a significant factor when sick, shopping at a big-box store and for generics will save consumers money in most cases."
The survey included checking prices of Afrin Original 12-hour spray, Vicks DayQuil Cold and Flu Relief Liquid and NyQuil Cold and Flu Relief Liquid, Cold-Eeze Cold Remedy lozenges, Mucinex DM, Theraflu Nighttime Severe Cold and Cough, Robitussin Peak Cold Multi-Symptom, and Tylenol Cold Multi-Symptom Nighttime Warming Liquid. The generics of all the products were also checked, except for the Tylenol Cold, which could not be found in most stores.
For name-brand drugs, CVS had the highest average price for five drugs, and Walgreens had the highest average price for three drugs. Walmart had the lowest average price for five drugs, and Target had the lowest average price for three drugs. Average prices were generally about $3 apart between high and low, although Mucinex was over $5 different from it high ($16.99 at Walgreens) and low ($10.68 at Walmart).
For the generics, results were similar. CVS and Walgreens had the highest averages for three drugs each, and Stop & Shop one. Walmart had the lowest average for six of the drugs, Target the other one. There were significant price differences in the nasal spray, which was $7.99 on average at CVS and $2.24 at Target, and Robitussin, which was $7.85 at CVS and $2.72 at Walmart.
The survey reinforced the savings consumers can find on generics with the same active ingredient as a name brand. NyQuil generic was over $3.50 less at CVS on average compared to the name brand. The Mucinex equivalent was $6 less on average for the generic at CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Target, even though the generic was typically in a 30-tablet pack compared to 20 tablets for the name brand.
"When generics offer the same active ingredient with the same amount of the ingredient, they present a strong option for consumers concerned about cost," said Undersecretary Anthony. "However, consumers need to check to ensure the generic offers the same drug at the same potency as the name brand, and should not assume they are identical without checking."
The Patrick-Murray Administration's Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education, and also works to ensure that the businesses its agencies regulate treat all Massachusetts consumers fairly. Follow the Office at its blog, Consumer Connections, and on Twitter, @Mass_Consumer.
Download the Average Prices of Brand Generic Drugs Per Store