May 1, 2000 (Washington, D.C.) -- Industry and consumer studies show that,
compared with filling prescriptions at the corner drug store, ordering drugs
online can cut costs considerably. A Consumer Reports study found that savings
can reach 25% or more.
The key, experts say, is to shop around and to stay away from the often
pricey sites that offer to sell "lifestyle" drugs such as Viagra and
Propecia without a visit to your doctor's office. Those sites can charge as
much as double the usual cost of such drugs.
Medicine is rigorously tested for safety and effectiveness before becoming available to the consumer. In the U.S., the FDA makes sure this happens. Once on the market, the FDA, along with the makers of the drug, continue to monitor the medicine for any unforeseen problems. Should an issue develop, or the safety of a medication come into question, a recall may be initiated.
But for most medications, all customers need to beat the price at the local
pharmacy is a mouse and a credit card. Here's what WebMD found when we went
shopping in mid-April:
Thirty tablets of the top-selling cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor cost
about $74 at an offline pharmacy, but the same quantity at an online drugstore
can go for anywhere from $49.88 to $51.60.
The popular depression drug Prozac will cost $100 for thirty 10-milligram
tablets at a brick-and-mortar pharmacy, but $70.95 to $71.51 online.
Thirty 10-milligram tablets of Prilosec, a drug for ulcers and heartburn,
sells for $105.99 online. At the store down the street, those same pills are
likely to cost you $134.
Claritin-D 12 Hour, the allergy medication, usually costs about $50 for
thirty 10-milligram doses, according to our informal survey. One online
pharmacy sells the same prescription for $36.47, but not every site is cheaper
-- another web site charges $68.26.
Zocor, another cholesterol-lowering medication, will likely cost about $85
locally for a 10 milligram, 30-pill prescription, but online it would be
Don't forget to include shipping expenses in your online prescription
comparisons. Although the cost of delivery by standard mail is nominal at many
sites, and free at others, it can become quite expensive if you need overnight
Michael D. Towle is based in Chantilly, Va., and writes regularly on health
and legal issues for WebMd.