Madigan: consumers have right to comparison shop for prescription meds

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CHICAGO—A new Illinois law effective Jan. 1, 2006, ensures consumers can comparison shop to find the lowest price for their prescription medications. Based on that law Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan urged Illinoisans to take advantage of the new law to help lower skyrocketing monthly prescription costs.

Starting on the first of the year, the Prescription Price Disclosure Act requires pharmacists to disclose the current retail price of any brand or generic prescription drug or medical device the pharmacy offers for sale. Consumers will be able to request, either in person or by telephone, the prices of up to 10 prescription drugs or medical devices for which they have prescriptions.

Madigan’s office helped draft this legislation after a 2004 study conducted by the Office of the Attorney General revealed that the price of a single prescription can vary greatly from pharmacy to pharmacy within a geographic area. The study found that consumers could save as much as 69 percent on one-month prescriptions of the most commonly prescribed drugs simply by finding out which nearby pharmacy has the best price.

“Because of the sometimes drastic price variations for prescription drugs, Illinois consumers can save a considerable amount by comparison shopping at pharmacies within a short distance from their home,” Madigan said. “Information can be a powerful tool for consumers when it comes to saving money.”

Madigan said the Prescription Price Disclosure Act, which amends the Pharmacy Practice Act of 1987, is critical because the approximately 3.5 million Illinoisans who are living without medical insurance are paying higher and higher out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs. In addition, the 2004 study conducted by Madigan’s office revealed that the average one-month prescription in Illinois costs approximately $50, making it important that consumers have the opportunity to comparison shop for the least expensive retail option.

Prior to Madigan’s legislation, pharmacists could refuse to disclose the cost of a prescription drug until the consumer agreed to have the prescription filled at the pharmacist’s place of business, making it difficult for consumers to ensure they were receiving the best price for their medications. The legislation was sponsored in the House by State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) and in the Senate by State Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg (D-Evanston).

From the Jan. 4-10, 2006, issue

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