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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 September 19, 2014 17:24 GMT

ALIBABA-IPO

NEW YORK (AP) -- Alibaba's stock is surging as the Chinese e-commerce powerhouse begins its first day trading as a public company.

The stock opened at $92.70 on the New York Stock Exchange this morning, up 36 percent from the initial $68 per share price set Thursday evening.

At that price the company would be worth $228.5 billion, more than companies such as Amazon, Ebay and even Facebook.

On Thursday, Alibaba and the investment bankers arranging the IPO settled on a price of $68 per share. The company and its early investors raised $21.8 billion in the offering, which valued Alibaba at $168 billion in one of the world's biggest ever initial public offerings.

But after a two-hour trading delay due to strong demand, it opened much higher than that price. If the stock closes at $92.70, the IPO will have raised close to $30 billion.

LEADING INDICATORS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A gauge designed to predict the economy's future health rose in August but at a much slower pace than in July.

The Conference Board says its index of leading indicators rose 0.2 percent in August, the seventh straight increase. But that was much slower than the revised 1.1 percent gain in July.

Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein says even with the slowdown in August, the index shows the economy is still gaining traction.

STATE UNEMPLOYMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unemployment rates rose in nearly half of U.S. states in August, even as employers in two-thirds of the states added jobs.

The Labor Department says unemployment increased in 24 states, fell in 15 and was unchanged in 11. Hiring picked up in 35 states, while it fell in 15.

Unemployment rates can rise even when hiring increases if more people start looking for work and don't immediately find jobs. The figures suggest hiring was broad-based across most regions of the country last month, even as nationwide job gains in August were the weakest this year.

Georgia reported the nation's highest unemployment rate, at 8.1 percent, followed by Mississippi at 7.9 percent. That's the first time Georgia has had the highest rate since the Great Recession ended.

BRITAIN-SCOTLAND-ECONOMY

LONDON (AP) -- Businesses and investors have reacted with relief to Scotland's decision to reject independence from the United Kingdom.

The No campaign won 55 percent of the votes cast in Thursday's referendum. The 10-point victory margin was wider than expected -- most opinion polls on the eve of the vote showed a narrower 4-point victory.

British stocks responded positively to the news Friday, with the FTSE 100 index up 0.3 percent. Royal Bank of Scotland shares were up, and the bank, which is majority-owned by the U.K. government, said it was "business as usual" for its customers.

Some had warned that if Scotland left, uncertainty over the future value of the British pound and government debt would have rattled the U.K economy.

In the currency markets, the pound was solid too, rising to a two-year high against the euro.

EXXON-RUSSIA DRILLING

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Exxon Mobil says it will stop drilling an exploratory well in Russia's Kara Sea in compliance with U.S. sanctions against Russia over Russia's involvement in the Ukraine.

Exxon planned to drill the well between August and October. The latest round of sanctions called for the removal of U.S. workers on projects in the Russian Arctic by Sept. 26.

Exxon says it has received a license from the U.S. Treasury Department to wind down operations, but it is unclear whether the license will allow Exxon to stop drilling on the schedule it had already laid out. Exxon could not be immediately reached for comment.

PABST BREWING-SALE

NEW YORK (AP) -- The maker of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer is being sold to Russian company Oasis Beverages for an undisclosed sum.

In addition to its namesake beer, Pabst Brewing Co. makes Colt 45, Old Milwaukee and Schlitz. Pabst was acquired in 2010 by C. Dean Metropoulos & Co., which is known for investing in food brands.

Pabst Brewing, now based in Los Angeles, traces its roots back to 1844 in Milwaukee. Since purchasing it in 2010, Metropoulos has enlisted comedian Will Ferrell to market the company's beers. Pabst Blue Ribbon has also grown in popularity in part for its blue-collar appeal and cheap price.

Oasis is buying Pabst with TSG, an investment firm known for its work with consumer products companies. TSG Consumer Partners will take a minority stake in Pabst.

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