Uninsured in State Pay 72% More for Drugs Than Federal Government, Survey Finds
People without health insurance in California pay an average of 72% more for eight commonly prescribed medications than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a survey by the California Public Interest Research Group, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The survey, to be released Wednesday, compared prices for prescription drugs at 600 pharmacies in 20 states with prices VA pays for such medications. The prescription drugs included in the survey are cholesterol medications Lipitor and Zocor, blood clot treatment Plavix, anti-inflammatory drug Celebrex, acid reflux medication Prevacid, hypertension drug Norvasc, potassium deficiency treatment K-Dur 20 and congestive heart failure treatment Lanoxin. Uninsured people in California pay more for their medications than do uninsured people in any other part of the country, except for the Mid-Atlantic region, according to the survey. San Diego, San Francisco and Fresno are included in the survey's list of the top 10 cities with the highest prescription drug prices. Emily Clayton, author of the survey, said, "Prices vary tremendously from pharmacy to pharmacy and from drug to drug. One pharmacy could have a great price on one drug, and that same pharmacy might have a terrible price on another." Harry Ambrunn, a pharmacist from in Burlingame, said that the reasons for price variation could be related to a pharmacy's rent, buying power and salaries. Ambrunn did not participate in the survey. Ramon Castellblanch, assistant professor of health policy at San Francisco State University, said, "Sometimes it's the most vulnerable people -- the people who can least afford it -- providing the widest margins to the drug industry." Bree Johnston, associate professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Hospital, added that a medication's price could mean that an uninsured person is "less likely to fill their prescriptions" (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/31).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.