School of Medicine and Health Sciences Poster Presentations

Title

Price Variation of Common Dermatologic Medications and an Opportunity to Help Patients Save Money by Influencing How They Shop

Document Type

Poster

Keywords

Prescription fees; Pharmacies; Healthcare costs; Healthcare disparities; Patient education

Publication Date

Spring 2017

Abstract

IMPORTANCE

High out-of-pocket drug expenditures are common in dermatology. Patients may not be aware that prices vary among pharmacies and may make choices that end up costing them more at the register.

OBJECTIVES

(1) Compare the prices of commonly prescribed dermatologic medications at local pharmacies.

(2) Assess patient awareness of local drug price variation and the factors that influence pharmacy choice.

(3) Determine the role of patient price education on influencing perception and predicted shopping habits.

METHODS

We obtained costs of medications frequently prescribed in dermatology and internal medicine through unannounced interviews with pharmacists at 8 local dispensaries (3 independent, 2 chain, 2 retail, and 1 grocery store). Between July and August 2016, we administered a cross-sectional anonymous survey to adults (Age ≥ 18 and literate in English) visiting outpatient clinics at the George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates. After respondents reviewed a handout of local prescription drug prices, they were asked follow-up questions. Investigators administered 287 surveys to a convenience sample of adults and 218 respondents answered enough questions to be included in our statistical analysis.

RESULTS

Our findings revealed that prices of commonly prescribed dermatologic medications vary widely among local pharmacies: clobetasol lotion (median $289.96, interquartile range $100.56), tretinoin cream (median $208.64, interquartile range $27.00), and fluocinonide cream (median $738.79, interquartile range $347.19). In our survey population, 73.4% (n=157) felt the price of their medications was “roughly the same at every drugstore” or indicated that they were unsure. When considering a cost savings of $10-25, 65% of respondents would switch pharmacies if the distance were the same, and 21.3% would switch if the distance was 45-minutes longer. After price education, respondents’ intended frequency of researching price online, calling a pharmacy to ask about price, and comparing the price between pharmacies before filling a prescription all increased, compared to prior self-reported frequencies (p<0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

This study suggests that price education will ultimately make patients more aware of disparities in medication costs. As the pharmacy distance increased, respondents were less likely to consider that alternate pharmacy, despite cost savings. However, brief price education was found to significantly change attitudes toward filling prescriptions and perceptions regarding local retail drug prices. Respondents intended to increase the frequency with which they research drug prices (both online and by phone) and compare prices among local pharmacies before filling their prescription. Thus, knowledge of drug pricing may be useful in creating cost savings for patients.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Open Access

1

Comments

Poster to be presented at GW Annual Research Days 2017.

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Price Variation of Common Dermatologic Medications and an Opportunity to Help Patients Save Money by Influencing How They Shop

IMPORTANCE

High out-of-pocket drug expenditures are common in dermatology. Patients may not be aware that prices vary among pharmacies and may make choices that end up costing them more at the register.

OBJECTIVES

(1) Compare the prices of commonly prescribed dermatologic medications at local pharmacies.

(2) Assess patient awareness of local drug price variation and the factors that influence pharmacy choice.

(3) Determine the role of patient price education on influencing perception and predicted shopping habits.

METHODS

We obtained costs of medications frequently prescribed in dermatology and internal medicine through unannounced interviews with pharmacists at 8 local dispensaries (3 independent, 2 chain, 2 retail, and 1 grocery store). Between July and August 2016, we administered a cross-sectional anonymous survey to adults (Age ≥ 18 and literate in English) visiting outpatient clinics at the George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates. After respondents reviewed a handout of local prescription drug prices, they were asked follow-up questions. Investigators administered 287 surveys to a convenience sample of adults and 218 respondents answered enough questions to be included in our statistical analysis.

RESULTS

Our findings revealed that prices of commonly prescribed dermatologic medications vary widely among local pharmacies: clobetasol lotion (median $289.96, interquartile range $100.56), tretinoin cream (median $208.64, interquartile range $27.00), and fluocinonide cream (median $738.79, interquartile range $347.19). In our survey population, 73.4% (n=157) felt the price of their medications was “roughly the same at every drugstore” or indicated that they were unsure. When considering a cost savings of $10-25, 65% of respondents would switch pharmacies if the distance were the same, and 21.3% would switch if the distance was 45-minutes longer. After price education, respondents’ intended frequency of researching price online, calling a pharmacy to ask about price, and comparing the price between pharmacies before filling a prescription all increased, compared to prior self-reported frequencies (p<0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

This study suggests that price education will ultimately make patients more aware of disparities in medication costs. As the pharmacy distance increased, respondents were less likely to consider that alternate pharmacy, despite cost savings. However, brief price education was found to significantly change attitudes toward filling prescriptions and perceptions regarding local retail drug prices. Respondents intended to increase the frequency with which they research drug prices (both online and by phone) and compare prices among local pharmacies before filling their prescription. Thus, knowledge of drug pricing may be useful in creating cost savings for patients.