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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 August 27, 2014 07:28 GMT

PORT LABOR

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- West Coast dockworkers and their employers say they have reached a tentative agreement on the difficult issue of health care, a major hurdle in contract negotiations at the ports that are vital to U.S. trade.

In a joint statement Tuesday announcing the tentative deal, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and an association representing shipping lines said it depended on resolving other issues.

It also emphasized the union's demand that benefits be maintained at current levels.

Past labor disputes on the waterfront have cost the economy billions of dollars.

The current contract negotiations have focused on health care benefits since before the contract expired on July 1.

While workers have continued to move cargo, concern over the union's ability to shut the docks has rippled through the U.S. supply chain.

HOME PRICES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Home prices across the country increased at a slower pace in June -- a cool-down that could last for several more months.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 8.1 percent in June from 12 months earlier, according to a report released Tuesday. That's down from 9.4 percent rise a month earlier and the smallest annual gain since December 2012.

Yearly price growth weakened in all 20 cities surveyed. Home values in Cleveland nudged up just 0.8 percent. Las Vegas led with a 15.2 percent gain. But prices in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Miami and Tampa, Florida, are still at least 33 percent below their housing bubble peaks of almost a decade ago.

The deceleration should help ease some of the price pressures on would-be buyers. After slumping at the start of 2014, existing-home sales have picked up as price gains have slowed. But buying remains 4.3 percent below the July 2013 level, according to the National Realtors Association.

DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors and government officials are expected later today to jointly announce new vehicles and jobs at a large GM factory complex in Spring Hill, Tennessee.

An announcement is scheduled for this morning at the plant, which is likely to get new Cadillac and GMC crossover SUVs in addition to its current product, the Chevrolet Equinox.

Neither GM nor Gov. Bill Haslam's office would comment ahead of the announcement. But the state said in a July 11 news release that a nearby company was expanding to make parts for new GMC and Cadillac vehicles at Spring Hill.

ABC Group plans to invest $25.5 million in its Gallatin, Tennessee, plant, adding 180,000 square feet and creating 230 jobs. The expansion will increase capacity to build consoles, interior trim and floors for new GMC and Cadillac vehicles to be made at Spring Hill, said the news release from the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

ATLANTIC CITY-FUTURE

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- Atlantic City is planning to offer additional job training as three casinos prepare to shut down over the next few weeks, putting thousands of workers on the street.

During a conference call with national media on Tuesday to address the upcoming shutdowns this weekend of the Showboat and Revel, Mayor Don Guardian said an effort to provide employment training and identify opportunities for unemployed workers will begin by October. The effort will be funded by a $400,000 grant from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and is designed to help 1,200 workers a year.

Guardian says, quote, "Our hearts go out to our neighbors and friends."

Trump Plaza will close on Sept. 16. Nearly 8,000 workers will lose their jobs when the three casinos shut down.

ECONOMY-SURVEY

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Economists appear to be of two minds about the Federal Reserve.

They agree with the Fed that the job market still isn't healthy. Yet the latest Associated Press survey of economists finds that most fear the Fed will wait too long to raise interest rates and thereby risk stoking inflation or creating asset bubbles.

The duality of their views underscores the perils of the Fed's policymaking. Most economists accept that there's still "significant" slack in the job market. By that they mean that millions of people -- the unemployed as well as part-time workers and people who've stopped looking for work and aren't counted as unemployed -- would likely take jobs or work more hours if they could.

Still, they're concerned that Janet Yellen's Fed won't raise rates soon enough.

The AP surveyed three dozen private, corporate and academic economists from Aug. 13 to19.

INSIDER TRADING

NEW YORK (AP) -- The director of market intelligence at an investor relations firm has been arrested on insider trading charges and accused of using drafts of press releases to illegally earn nearly a million dollars.

Prosecutors on Tuesday announced 13 securities fraud charges. They said 51-year-old Michael Lucarelli was a director at Manhattan-based Lippert/Heilshorn & Associates Inc. when he made the illegal trades over the last year.

Lucarelli, wearing a tank top, slacks and sandals, was released on $500,000 bail after an initial appearance in federal court in Manhattan.

His attorney, Oscar Michelen, said in court that his client pleads not guilty. Outside court, Michelen said he would not comment on the charges until he can investigate them and speak with Lucarelli.

HEALTH OVERHAUL

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration has picked a Connecticut official to run HealthCare.gov ahead of a second open enrollment season looming as a test of competence for the feds.

Kevin Counihan (KOO-ni-han) leads Access Health CT, a health insurance marketplace seen as a national model.

As CEO of the federal exchange, Counihan's challenge will be far bigger. Connecticut enrolled about 80,000 people, while more than 5 million signed up in the 36 states served by the federal marketplace.

Insurance exchanges offer subsidized private coverage to people who don't have workplace health plans.

The role of federal CEO is new, created by Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to avoid a repeat of last year's technical meltdown. Burwell also named Lori Lodes of the Center for American Progress as communications director.

AMERICAN AIRLINES-ORBITZ

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- American Airlines and US Airways are pulling flight listings from Orbitz-run websites in a long-running dispute over fees that the travel company charges to list and sell the flights.

Shares of Orbitz Worldwide Inc. fell nearly 5 percent on Tuesday.

American said that it had already dropped its fares from Orbitz and that US Airways listings would be pulled on Monday.

Corporate customers of the airlines will still be able to book travel through Orbitz, but individuals will have to go to the airlines' websites or other travel agents, including online rivals of Orbitz such as Expedia Inc.

American's withdrawal extends to Orbitz's other websites, such as CheapTickets and European-based ebookers.com. However, those sites were still selling seats on American flights that were listed by American's so-called code-sharing partners, including British Airways and Japan Airlines.

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