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I-Team Special Report: Drug Dilemma, Part I

Updated: Friday, May 2, 2014 |
I-Team Special Report: Drug Dilemma, Part I story image
WEST MICHIGAN (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Do you price shop for prescription medicine?

The Newschannel 3 I-Team investigated a drug dilemma.

We found large price differences for presciption drugs, but we also learned focusing too much on the lowest price can be dangerous.

Kalamazoo resident Marva Golden lined up twelve different prescriptoin medications she needs on her kitchen counter.

She told us she can spend up to $500 a month on medicine.

Golden lives on a fixed income because she is retired, so she checks prices to save.

"I keep wondering if there's another store I might go to that's cheaper than the one I'm shopping at,"she said.

There is plenty of incentive for Marva Golden to price shop.

Newschannel 3 contacted 40 pharmacies across West Michigan and found big price differences.

We price compared a one month supply of generic Plavix, a popular blood thinning medication.  The highest price was $248,  the lowest just $5.

We also checked prices for a one month supply of generic Singulair, a popular asthma medication.

The highest price was $203, the lowest $8.

So why are prices all over the map?

"The fault is so hard to pinpoint because everything is so intentionally opaque. There's no transparency in any of these pricings," said Jim Middleton, the Director of Pharmacy for Western Michigan University.

Middleton at least partly blames prices on something he calls a usual and customary charge, so that businesses can get the most from insurance companies.

Middleton says that usual and customary charge is still in place for individuals paying for prescriptions using cash.

But when we pointed out to expert after expert that prescription drug users have incentive to shop around, they all said be careful, you could be putting your health in danger.

"Pharmacy isn't a commodity, it's not like your milk and eggs.", Said Sheryl Kirby, owner of Fred's Pharmacy in Three Rivers.

Experts say if you are taking multiple medications, you should get them all at one pharmacy.

That is so pharmacists can keep track of what you are taking.

"The concern is if you go to multiple pharmacies, that we do not know what the other pharmacies are doing, there can be severe drug interactions", said Kirby.

However, some prescription users such as Marva Golden do not think they can afford to only go to one pharmacy.

"Sometimes I just take the risk," said Golden, "hoping that it is the right medications, that it is going to do what it is supposed to do."

The price checks we did for pharmacies were based on a cash purchase.

Prices will be different if you have insurance, and then vary based on the quality of that insurance.

Also, there are programs to help lower prices, be sure to ask your pharmacist, to make sure you're not paying more than is necessary.

There is a website called good r-x that can help you find the lowest prescription prices where you live, we've linked it to our website. Just click here.
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Business News

Last Update on July 25, 2014 07:27 GMT

WORLD MARKETS

MUMBAI, India (AP) -- Most major Asian stock markets rose today after U.S. unemployment claims fell to an eight-year low and tensions over the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet eased.

The generally positive sentiment was fueled by favorable U.S. jobs data indicating that the world's largest economy is continuing to recover. On Thursday, U.S. unemployment claims fell to an eight-year low, declining by 19,000 to 284,000.

Japan reports its inflation rate eased slightly in June as a sales tax stunted demand.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell below $102 a barrel.

The dollar inched down against the euro and was unchanged against the yen.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The economic data and corporate financial results slow today, with just one government report on the schedule. The Commerce Department releases durable goods for June this morning.

Orders for durable goods fell 1 percent in May as demand for military equipment fell sharply. Excluding defense-related goods, orders actually rose, and orders for core capital goods, a category that signals business investment, also increased. Factories reported higher demand in May for steel and other metals, computers, and autos.

AVIATION MEETING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An aviation official says global aviation leaders will meet in Montreal next week to initiate discussions on a plan to address safety and security issues raised by the shoot-down of a Malaysia Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine, as well as two other air crashes.

The official said the International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency, will host the meeting on Tuesday. Other organizations scheduled to participate include the International Air Transport Association, which represents airlines; the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization; and the Airports Council International.

Another meeting is also planned for February. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak about the issue by name.

Besides the Malaysia plane, airliners also have crashed in Taiwan and Mali in bad weather over the past week.

FAST FOOD WORKERS-CONVENTION

CHICAGO (AP) -- Fast food workers from around the country will gather this weekend in Chicago to discuss how to escalate their campaign for higher wages and union representation.

About 1,300 workers are expected at a convention in suburban Chicago Friday and Saturday. They say they can't provide for their family on minimum wage and want paid sick days and other benefits.

Industry officials say a $15-an-hour wage would hurt jobs, and that the solution is more education and job training.

Kendall Fells is an organizing director of the national effort who works for the Service Employees International Union.

He says higher-profile protests are coming that may include civil disobedience. So far, most of the protests have included one-day strikes and a protest outside this year's McDonald's Corp. shareholder meeting.

HONG KONG-SUSPECT MEAT

HONG KONG (AP) -- McDonald's restaurants in Hong Kong have taken chicken nuggets and chicken burgers off the menu after a mainland Chinese supplier was accused of selling expired meat.

The fast food chain said late Thursday that it "suspended relevant food ingredients" at Hong Kong outlets in light of the scandal surrounding Shanghai Husi Food Co.

Chinese authorities detained five Husi employees after a TV station reported last weekend that the company repackaged and sold meat past its use-by date.

McDonald's in Hong Kong said it used chicken from a Husi factory, but it wasn't the Shanghai factory at the center of the initial allegations against the company.

The government of the semiautonomous Chinese territory said that imports of Husi products would be suspended as the investigation continued.

JAPAN-ECONOMY

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan reports its inflation rate eased slightly in June as a sales tax stunted demand.

The government reported Friday that the core consumer price index, which does not include prices for fresh foods, rose 3.3 percent in June, down from the 3.4 percent in May.

But factoring out surging energy prices, such as a 10.6 percent rise in gas prices, the increase was 2.3 percent.

Excluding the direct effect of the April 1 increase in the sales tax to 8 percent from 5 percent, the inflation rate was 1.3 percent, the Bank of Japan says.

It has set a 2 percent inflation target, aiming to break Japan out of years of deflation, but forecasts that the rate will remain just above 1 percent for the foreseeable future.

CHINA-QUALCOMM

BEIJING (AP) -- A government newspaper says Chinese regulators have concluded Qualcomm Inc., one of the biggest makers of chips used in mobile devices, has a monopoly.

Citing a planning agency official, the China Daily on Friday said the results of an investigation into Qualcomm will be released soon. It cited the official as saying Qualcomm "has a monopoly" but gave no indication what possible penalties or orders to change its business practices the U.S. company might face.

Chinese regulators were investigating whether Qualcomm abused its dominant market position by charging excessive fees for technology.

China's government has complained about the high cost of licenses for foreign technology used by the country's manufacturers of mobile phones, personal computers and other electronics.

CHINA-EARNS-BAIDU

BEIJING (AP) -- Baidu Inc., which operates China's most popular search engine, says its quarterly profit rose 34 percent over a year earlier as its mobile business grew.

Baidu said Friday it earned 3.5 billion yuan ($571.1 million) in the three months ended June 30. Revenue rose 58.5 percent to 11.9 billion yuan ($1.9 billion).

Baidu and other Internet companies are building mobile e-commerce and other services as Chinese users shift rapidly to going online using smartphones and tablet computers. Baidu dominates traditional Internet search but is a much smaller presence in mobile.

The contribution of mobile to Baidu's total revenue rose above 30 percent for the first time, chairman Robin Li said in a statement.

Li said, "We had a great quarter as we continued to build very strong mobile momentum."

EARNS-VISA

FOSTER CITY, Calif. (AP) -- Visa says its profit climbed 11 percent in its fiscal third quarter versus a year earlier, aided by solid growth in payments volume, service revenue and transactions.

The results beat or matched Wall Street expectations, but the company reduced its earnings outlook for the year. CEO Charlie Scharf notes issues including a stronger U.S. dollar and slow growth in international transactions.

Visa is the world's largest processor of debit and credit card payments, and its results are closely watched because they can be a window into the buying habits and financial health of consumers.

Visa's transactions grew 6 percent in the April-June quarter, echoing data that show increased spending by consumers in recent months as unemployment declines.

EARNS-AMAZON

SEATTLE (AP) -- Amazon.com has reported a deeper-than-expected second quarter loss as expenses outpaced a surge in revenue.

Amazon has long focused on spending the money it makes to grow and expand into new areas. In one of its most high-profile moves, Amazon is introducing its own smartphone, the Fire, which starts selling Friday.

The company has been heavily investing in services for its loyalty program, Prime, which costs $99 a year, and includes free two-day shipping on many items. It has added a grocery delivery services and music streaming for Prime Members as well as offering original TV shows and apps. It's also expanded Sunday deliveries and recently began offering a set-top video streaming box.

Amazon doesn't disclose how many Prime members there are but says it added more Prime members in the second quarter than it did in the second quarter last year, despite increasing the cost by $20 earlier this year.

Investors have been accepting of Amazon's thin profit and focus on revenue growth in the past. But shares fell in aftermarket trading.

TAXES-HEALTH OVERHAUL

MIAMI (AP) -- Federal officials have capped the amount of money scofflaws will be forced to pay if they don't buy insurance this year under the new health care law.

The caps are $2,448 per person and $12,240 for a family of five. The amount is equal to the national average annual premium for a bronze-level health plan.

The penalty for the first year starts at $95 per person and can rise to as much as 1 percent of annual income. The latest figure limits what the government can charge people using the personal income computation. The penalty is due when people file their 2014 taxes.

Conservative lawmakers and groups that are critical of the Affordable Care Act encouraged consumers to skip buying insurance, arguing it would be cheaper to pay the $95 penalty, but often failed to mention the 1 percent clause.

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