Economists, analysts, and advocates will surely be dissecting the Trump administration's drug plan announced Friday, and debating whether it will rein in the multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry.
In the meantime, consumers can do themselves a favor by researching how much drugs cost. New tools that compare cash prices are beginning to shed light on a particularly murky corner of the health-care system.
Pennsylvania's Prescription Price Finder can be searched for the cash prices of 300 commonly prescribed medications at pharmacies around the state. In addition to the name of the drug, you need to know the strength of each dose and the number of doses in your prescription to get true comparisons.
Many people don't realize how widely prices can vary — for many, insurance co-pays hide the real price of a drug. Yet more and more, consumers are paying a bigger share of health-care costs.
Consider: The cash price for a 30-day supply of 10 mg tabs of rosuvastatin, the generic version of cholesterol medication Crestor, ranges from $15.86 to $464.35 across 98 pharmacies in Philadelphia, according to the state's price comparison tool.
Knowing the cash price is useful even if you have good insurance because in some instances, the cash price may actually be cheaper. Yet unless you point this out to the pharmacist, you could automatically be charged the amount of your copay.
Researchers from the University of Southern California who compared 9.5 million pharmacy claims against the national average retail price data found that in 23 percent of the claims, the copayment exceeded the drug's cash price.
The average overpayment was $7.69, according to results published in the Journal of American Medical Association in March.
Try our Philly Health Costs database to look up the cash prices of many common procedures at facilities around the area. Tell us about your own experience with drug costs by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.