Chain Pharmacies Charge 18 Times More on Generic Meds, Study Finds

If you buy your generic drugs from popular pharmacies like CVS or Target in order to save money, you might want to rethink your strategy. At least that’s what the findings from a new Consumer Reports investigative study suggests.

The report, which was published Thursday, showed a high variation in the price of generic drugs sold at more than 200 U.S. pharmacy chains. While wholesale chains and online retailers offer attractive rates, those on the high end of the spectrum drove their prices up to stunning levels. So much so that the difference between the highest-and-lowest priced store in the survey was a whopping $749 or 447 percent!

CVS, Rite Aid, and Target were revealed to have the highest mark ups, charging as much as 18 times what their wholesale counterparts charge.  Out of the bigger stores, wholesale giant Costco was the least expensive, and even non-members can get in on the savings. The report showed that a few independent pharmacies and grocery stores charge even less, but their prices vary widely. Online retailers like and also had low prices, the study found.

What does this mean for the everyday shopper? It means that Americans who shop for the generic versions of common meds for diabetes, depression, high cholesterol and other ailments, might be paying hundreds of dollars more than what they could be. By simply shopping around and spending their dollars at the lower priced pharmacies they can truly reap the money saving benefits of buying generic.

To be fair, there is a reason for stores like Target and Rite-Aid to mark up the prices. According to Stephen W. Schondelmeyer, Ph.D., Pharm.D., professor of pharmacy economics at the University of Minnesota, these traditional stores “make the majority of their revenue and profits from the pharmacy,” whereas “big-box stores such as Costco and Walmart use the pharmacy as a traffic builder for their stores.”

A CVS rep also told Consumer Reports “that its retail drug prices reflect other services offered by the chain, including drive-through windows, automated prescription refill systems, free outreach programs to help make sure patients are taking their prescriptions correctly, and 24-hour pharmacies.” Costco pharmacies on the other hand, are open from 10AM to 7 or 8:30PM and are typically closed on Sundays.

So what’s the lesson here? Shop around for your generic medications. Call a few different pharmacies, ask for the lowest price offered on your specific drug, ask what kind of services are offered and then pick the pharmacy that best caters to you.

For more on how different pharmacies stack up visit

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