Shop for your Meds; The Pharmacy/Drug Racket


Opinions are my own...
PREMO Member
I needed to fill a script for 100mg Doxycycline Hyclate, which is a very common antibiotic. I called three local pharmacies to see what their self-pay (no insurance) price was 25 capsules:
  • Weis Markets $27
  • WalMart $80+
  • Harris Teeter $140+
The guy at Harris Teeter was nice enough to suggest going to to look for coupons. I had seen these sites but wasn't sure if they were legit.

They had coupons for:
  • Weis Markets $16.76
  • Harris Teeter $13.25
  • WalMart $20.26
So, I go to Weis Markets and he pokes around on his keyboard for what seemed like a very long time and says, we apparently don't have a contract with this company (for the GoodRx coupon). I thought, that's about par for the course. So, I handed him a discount card from a Christian group I belong to and he says $11.61. Great! Too bad he wouldn't give me this price when I called the first time; not sure if he was too lazy or their system doesn't allow lookups unless an actual order is being placed. Anyway, it helps illustrate the Charlie Foxtrot that exists when trying to "shop" for anything related to medical costs.

  • Hats off to Weis' for not trying to gouge people on their list prices
  • Even if you have insurance, shop around first, especially if you have a high deductible or co-pay. The cash prices you pay might be less in the end. I've even read about this being true with hospital procedures; the LA Times did a story on this not too long ago.
The epilogue to this story is that several years ago, you used to be able to get a 30-day supply of Tetracycline (Doxycycline is in the Tetracycline family) for $4 at Walmart as part of their $4 generics program. One day: Sorry sir, no one has this any more. They are all saying there is a supply shortage. But, we can give you this Doxycycline for much more $$$.

Of course my first thought is that this is a conspiracy to push higher priced drugs that do the same thing. This Consumer Reports page seems to substantiate that:

A third company, Impax Laboratories, also has FDA approval to manufacture tetracycline. But instead of producing that drug, IMPAX manufactures generic doxycycline, which is in the same drug class as tetracycline. A company spokesperson told us that IMPAX does not manufacture it because the market for it is not "attractive."

How can a shortage of such a common drug occur? It's not clear, and the FDA doesn't know either. An FDA spokesperson told us that they're willing to help the companies involved, but they'd need more information to do so.

Neither Teva nor Watson has said that it will permanently discontinue tetracycline, but the shortage appears to have no end in sight.

Seems like a pretty compelling case for a D0J price fixing probe, but alas, :crickets: