Survey examines public opinion of prescription drug sources

6/9/2008

YONKERS, N.Y. According to a recent survey by Consumer Reports, readers find independent pharmacies as the most preferable of all the different versions of pharmacies, which include chains, supermarkets, mass merchants, online/mail order and pharmacy benefit managers.

Since the survey began in 1998, readers have always ranked independent pharmacies as their number one choice of pharmacy. This is most likely due to the stores’ focus on prescription drugs, which account for 92 percent of everything they sell. The pharmacists were also thought of as accessible, approachable, easy to talk to and knowledgeable. It also helps that independents carry medical supplies that would otherwise be difficult to find in other pharmacies. Also, waits were uncommon and independents do have Web sites, which allow patients to order refills that can then be delivered to their home.

Chains remain the dominant place to buy most prescriptions because of their availability. They are located on almost every corner, some never close and they accept a lot of insurance plans. Waiting, though, seems to be the big problem at chains; one in four readers complained of waiting at a chain store.

Supermarkets offer the convenience of allowing customers to shop while they’re waiting for their prescriptions. Supermarket pharmacies also don’t deal with as much volume as other types of stores, leaving more time for the customer and pharmacists to talk about issues concerning the patient.

Mass merchants provide great deals for customers who lack prescription drug coverage. Such stores as Wal-Mart and Target sell 30-day supplies of more than 300 drugs for $4 each and some stores offer prescription discount cards for customers over the age of 50.

A newer convenience for patients is just shopping from the privacy of their own home. Online Web sites allow customers to order their prescription from home and then they can either go and pick it up or it can be shipped at an extra cost or at no cost at all depending on the item and the site your dealing with. Also, online drugstores now offer customers 90-day supplies of drugs that are used to treat chronic conditions.

Finally, pharmacy benefit managers offer their enrollees deals to get their medications through them. The PBM makes deal with the pharmaceutical companies to lower the prices of drugs based on their large volume of enrollees through all the companies that use them as their insurance provider.

Other findings from the survey showed that customers sought pharmacists’ advice about prescription drugs about 38 percent of the time and asked them about over-the-counter remedies just 29 percent of the time. This is compared to 2002, when the figures were 50 and 37 percent, respectively.

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