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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 31, 2014 07:30 GMT

WORLD MARKETS

MUMBAI, India (AP) -- Asian stock markets are uninspired by an upbeat report on the U.S. economy, with most drifting lower Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve said it would make further cuts to its monetary stimulus as expected.

Markets slipped in Hong Kong, Tokyo and South Korea. China's Shanghai Composite was nearly flat.

Shares of South Korean consumer electronics kingpin Samsung dived 4 percent after it reported a bigger-than-expected fall in second quarter profit on slowing smartphone sales.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Investors will be looking at two Labor Department reports today.

The first deals with the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. In the previous week, the number fell to its lowest level in more than eight years.

The second release is the second-quarter employment cost index.

Freddie Mac will also report weekly mortgage rates. Last week, the average for the 30-year loan was 4.13 percent, unchanged from the previous week.

MasterCard and Exxon Mobil will release their quarterly financial results before the market opens and LinkedIn and Tesla Motors will report quarterly earnings after the market closes.

SKOREA-EARNS-SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Samsung Electronics Co. says its second-quarter profit dropped 20 percent as smartphone and tablet sales fell.

The South Korean company says its net income during the April-June quarter was $6.1 billion, the lowest since the second quarter of 2012 and below forecasts.

Samsung had warned that the second quarter would be the worst in two years as its handset business halted growth.

It struggled to compete in the cheap smartphone business, which is the fastest-growing smartphone segment.

Sales fell 9 percent while operating profit sank 25 percent, in line with Samsung's guidance earlier this month.

The company's reliance on its semiconductor business for profit is expected to increase as it cannot expect an explosive growth of handset profit anymore. Samsung is the world's largest maker of memory chips.

JOURNAL-SCRIPPS DEAL

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Journal Communications Inc. of Milwaukee and E.W. Scripps Co. of Cincinnati have announced an agreement to merge broadcasting operations while spinning off newspaper holdings into a separate public company.

As part of the deal announced by the companies Wednesday, the newspaper component, Journal Media Group, will be headquartered in Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Journal Media Group will include the Journal Sentinel and Scripps newspapers, including the Memphis Commercial Appeal, and others.

Meanwhile, Journal Communications' broadcast assets will be folded into Scripps, with headquarters remaining in Cincinnati.

The newspaper reports Scripps will emerge from the deal as the nation's fifth-largest independent TV group, with 34 stations.

News releases say both companies' boards of directors approved the deal. It is expected to close in 2015.

CHINA-KFC-PIZZA HUT

BEIJING (AP) -- The owner of the KFC and Pizza Hut restaurant chains says a scandal over food safety in China has hurt sales and might be severe enough to cut into the company's global profit.

Yum Brands Inc., in a filing with the U.S. securities regulator, says the scandal over accusations Shanghai Husi Food Inc. sold expired beef and chicken has caused a "significant, negative impact" on sales.

It gave no financial details and said it was too early to know when sales might rebound. But it said that if the "significant sales impact" continues, it might hurt this year's profit.

Chinese authorities have detained five Husi employees but have yet to confirm a TV report the company sold expired meat to KFC and McDonald's Corp. restaurants in China.

OBAMA-LABOR

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama will sign an executive order today that cracks down on labor violations by companies that contract with the federal government.

The White House says the order will require companies seeking federal contracts to make public any previous violations of labor laws. Federal agencies will be given more guidance on how violations should factor into contract determinations.

Obama's order will also say that corporations with large federal contracts can't force workers to submit labor disputes to binding arbitration. The White House says it's designed to ensure those who suffer sexual assault or civil rights violations can have their day in court.

The order requires that workers be given information each pay period to ensure their paychecks are accurate.

J&J-DEVICE WITHDRAWL

J&J withdraws fibroid treatment device from market

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Johnson & Johnson is asking surgeons not to use a line of devices for removing growths from the uterus amid regulators' growing concern that the electronic surgical tools raise the risk of spreading cancer to other parts of the body.

In April, J&J suspended sales of the devices, known as laparoscopic power morcellators, after the Food and Drug Administration discouraged doctors from using them. Surgeons use the devices to treat painful fibroids, either by removing the growths themselves or the entire uterus.

J&J says it is conducting a worldwide withdrawal of all its morcellators still on the market. The company cites an FDA meeting earlier this month that reinforced "the complexity of this issue."

FDA is weighing regulatory actions to reduce the risk of cancer spread.

ARGENTINA DEBT

NEW YORK (AP) -- Talks between Argentina and U.S.-based creditors have ended without a settlement that would avoid the country's second default in 13 years.

Argentine Economy Minister Axel Kicillof says his country is unable to accept demands of investors led by U.S. hedge funds his government has deemed "vultures."

A defiant Kicillof said Wednesday that the investors refused to a stay of a judge's order that would have allowed the country to pay other creditors while continuing negotiations.

He also said the creditors would not accept a generous compromise offered by the South American country.

A court-appointed mediator says Argentina will immediately go into default.

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