Press of Atlantic City

Drug-Price Web Site

Good medicine

Press of Atlantic City — Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Who knew? We sure didn't. And we consider ourselves pretty savvy consumers.

But with all the talk about cheaper prescription drugs being available in Canada and other countries, this seems to have been lost: Cheaper drugs are often available right across the street.

Yes, there can be a wide variation in the cost of prescription drugs from pharmacy to pharmacy.

But how do you comparison shop?

Well, if a bill currently in the Legislature is approved, New Jersey would join New York, Maryland, Illinois and Florida by creating a state Web site that would list pharmacy-by-pharmacy price comparisons for the 150 most frequently prescribed drugs. Consumers would be able to search prices by ZIP code.

Pharmacies would be required to provide the state with weekly price updates under the bill. That requirement is the one beef the New Jersey Council of Chain Drug Stores has with the measure. But how burdensome is it to e-mail a list of new prices to the state once a week?

The New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute says it found an average price difference of $47 in a study of chain drug stores in Mercer County. In an Associated Press check of the New York Web site, prices for 30 Lipitor pills ranged from $45 to $188, to name just one example.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine, New Jersey Citizen Action and other supporters of the proposal say the Web site will exert competitive pressure on pharmacies to lower prices. The more popular the site, the more downward pressure on prices.

It sounds like a fine idea to us.

The state estimates it will cost $1 million to create the Web site. Speaking of prices, that does seem a little steep. You can set up a simple Web site for a lot less than that. But if the cost includes a large-scale marketing campaign encouraging people to use the site – a campaign that will be absolutely necessary – the cost could prove well worth it to seniors and others being hit hard by high drug prices.

Top Top | NJCA Homepage | NJCA in the News