How much do birth-control pills cost? Some shopping tips

Filed Under: Costs, Patients, Providers

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SUMMARY: How much do birth-control pills cost? Well, that depends. Click on our cool interactive map at the right and take a look. Keep reading for more tips and advice, or…

 

 


If you’re insured, under the Affordable Care Act, they might just cost nothing; here’s a blog post about that. But your co-pay might be high, or your brand might not be covered. Or, you might be uninsured and paying cash.

Shopping for birth-control pills and other prescriptions shouldn’t be that hard. So we’re here to offer some ways to think about it.

1. Ask. Always. Ask how much that pill will cost with insurance, or without insurance. Ask at your local Costco or Target or Shop-Rite; we hear a lot from people who choose the big-box stores without their insurance because it’s cheaper. Also ask at your local pharmacy; they might be less expensive. Don’t just assume that the big-box stores are cheaper.

2. Use resources on the web. But use them wisely, and always ask yourself: is this the best price? For online shoppers,  the newest entrant we know of is werx.org, which describes itself this way:

“WeRx.org is a unique online tool created by a team of compassionate doctors who believe that all patients deserve the right to make informed decisions about their own healthcare. The innovative new website and mobile application provides users with a platform to share and compare the most up-to-date information regarding prescription drug costs within their local pharmacies.”

There are other such sites: goodrx.com, which we have known of for some time, is one. They have a clean, simple search function.

You also might find a number of state or local resources. And for a detailed list of other resources, here’s our prescription-buying resource page.

3. There’s our search tool, which right now for pharmacy prices has only birth-control pills (and not all brands) in the New York area.

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Here’s a brief user test: WeRx.org seems to have a coupon model; I searched for Yaz, a common pill, in New York City. I found it on offer for $89.68 with a Duane Reade coupon; average reported price, the site says, is $113.06.

This, of course, is a strong inducement for you to get the coupon, save the $14 and deliver a bit of revenue to someone.

For GoodRx.com, the search for Yaz in New York City also gave a number of coupon offers, today from $88.02 to $90.47. I’m attaching a screenshot because these prices tend to vary.

The Duane Reade coupon for GoodRX gets you a price of $90.05 (top GoodRx screenshot at right). But wait! I went back a day later, and there was no Duane Reade coupon any more (see bottom GoodRx screenshot at right).

Both sites wanted to tell me in excited tones about Gianvi, a Yaz generic.

Finally, here are some of our results:

Costco sells Yaz for $86 with no coupon. It’s $68 at La Esperanza Pharmacy, 1119 Broad St.,
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Newark, NJ 973-622-5525). It’s $65 at Palmer Professional Pharmacy, 49 Lake Ave. Greenwich, Ct. (203-869-5700). And it’s $75 at Berney’s Pharmacy, 615 Howard Ave., New Haven, Ct. (203-562-4447). Also, no coupon is needed.

So we only have a few pills and a limited geographic area — but we’re here to tell you that this scenario plays out in various kinds of prescriptions all over the country. Prices vary. A lot.

While we’re on the topic, I’d like to note that many people believe that generics are automatically a better purchase than brand-name drugs. That’s not always true; sometimes big drug companies and retailers push prices down only by a little bit once a drug becomes a generic.

“Patients are used to paying a high price for branded medications, and pharmacies know this,” writes Leslie Ramirez, who has a cost-comparison website in Chicago (Update: The site is no longer operating). “So when a new generic becomes available, many pharmacies discount the medication, but only by a small fraction as little as 10- 15%, However, the patient buying the prescription sees the new generic medication is somewhat cheaper and appreciates paying a little less for it. Over the course of a year or two, the price at the pharmacy retailer falls little by little. Eventually the generic medication stabilizes at a much lower price- as low as a tenth of the original, non-generic price. Meanwhile, the patient never realizes that they have been paying a very steep mark-up that constitutes as much as 15 times the wholesale price.”