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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 29, 2014 17:14 GMT

CONSUMER SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer spending fell in July, with a drop in auto purchases accounting for most of the weakness. Income growth also slowed in July.

The Commerce Department says consumer spending edged down 0.1 percent last month after a 0.4 percent increase in June. It was the first decline in spending since January. Income growth slowed to a 0.2 percent rise in July, the weakest showing in seven months.

The fall in spending came primarily from a decline in auto sales, which took a breather in July after posting big gains in recent months, although spending in other areas was also weak.

Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, so it needs to recover for the economy to keep its momentum in the second half of the year.

CONSUMER SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer sentiment ticked up in August, driven by greater optimism about jobs, rising incomes, and increasing wealth. The increase largely occurred among higher-income groups.

The University of Michigan says its index of consumer sentiment rose to 82.5 from 81.8 in July. Still, it has barely risen in the past year.

Consumers have sent mixed signals in recent months. The Michigan index has fluctuated between 80 and 82.5 since December. A measure of consumer confidence by the Conference Board rose this month to nearly a seven-year high. And yet Americans cut back their spending in July.

Nearly 60 percent of households in the top third of income earners say they are financially better off this month, the Michigan survey found, compared with only 36 percent in the bottom two-thirds.

US-FIAT-CHRYSLER

DETROIT (AP) -- U.S. investors should soon be able to buy stock in Chrysler for the first time in seven years.

Italy's Fiat and Chrysler are merging to form Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Fiat says Friday that an ongoing tally of investors suggests there is not enough opposition to derail the deal.

Earlier this month, Fiat shareholders approved combining the companies. But Italian law gives dissenters the right to cash out. Fiat has said that if investors offered more than 500 million euros ($650 million) in shares, the merger would be off.

Fiat SpA will announce the final tally by Sept. 4. So far the maximum number of shares to be cashed is below the cap.

Shares of Chrysler haven't been publicly traded since 2007 when it was still combined with German automaker Daimler.

REYNOLDS AMERICAN-LORILLARD

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Federal regulators are putting Reynolds American Inc.'s planned $25 billion takeover of rival cigarette maker Lorillard Inc. under the microscope.

The nation's second-biggest tobacco company said Friday that the Federal Trade Commission has asked for additional information as part of an antitrust review of the deal.

In July, Reynolds announced the deal to combine two of the nation's oldest and biggest tobacco companies, creating a formidable No. 2 to rival Altria Group Inc., owner of Philip Morris USA.

Reynolds markets Camel, Pall Mall and Natural American Spirit cigarettes. Lorillard sells Newport, Maverick and Kent cigarettes.

The companies plan to sell the Kool, Salem, Winston, Maverick and blu eCig brands to Imperial Tobacco Group for $7.1 billion to ease regulatory concerns about competition.

HEALTH OVERHAUL-TAX FORMS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The federal agency that brought you the glitchy HealthCare.gov website has a massive new project.

If the Health and Human Services department has trouble this time, that could delay tax refunds for many people.

Complicated connections between the new health care law and income taxes will start to surface in 2015.

HHS has to send millions of people who got health insurance tax credits this year a new tax form that's like a W-2 for health care. It's called a 1095-A.

If they're delayed beyond Jan. 31, people who got coverage through the new insurance exchanges may have to wait to file their taxes -- and collect their refunds.

Some tax preparation companies are worried.

The Obama administration says it's on task, but won't provide much detail.

EUROPE-ECONOMY

BRUSSELS (AP) -- Inflation has fallen to an annual 0.3 percent in August for the 18 countries that use the euro, underlining the shakiness of the continent's economic recovery.

Eurostat, the EU statistics agency, says the figure is down from 0.4 percent in July, as expected by market analysts.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy, sent a modestly brighter signal as it rose to 0.9 percent from 0.8 percent.

The eurozone economy showed no growth in the second quarter as fears about the Ukrainian crisis weighed on consumers and investment decisions.

The European Central Bank has warned that inflation expectations are worsening and says it will add more stimulus if needed. Many analysts are predicting the bank will launch large-scale purchases of financial assets to pump more money into the economy.

BRAZIL-ECONOMY

SAO PAULO (AP) -- Brazil's government says the country's gross domestic product contracted 0.6 percent in the second quarter compared with the previous three months, sending the country's economy into a recession.

The government's IBGE statistics bureau said Friday it was the second consecutive quarterly contraction of the economy.

In the first quarter of the year, GDP was reported as having grown 0.2 percent. But that figure was revised downward to minus 0.2 percent.

The IBGE says the country's GDP stands at 1.27 trillion reals ($567 billion).

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