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Variation in Drug Prices at Pharmacies: Are Prices Higher in Poorer Areas?

Authors

  • Walid F. Gellad,

    1. Division of General Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and RAND Corporation, 4570 Fifth Avenue, Suite 600, Pittsburgh, PA 15213,
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    • Address correspondence to Walid F. Gellad, M.D., M.P.H., Division of General Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and RAND Corporation, 4570 Fifth Avenue, Suite 600, Pittsburgh, PA 15213; e-mail: wgellad@rand.org. Mark W. Friedberg, M.D., M.P.P., is with the Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA. Niteesh K. Choudhry, M.D., Ph.D., M. Alan Brookhart, Ph.D., and William H. Shrank, M.D., M.S.H.S. are with the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. Jennifer S. Haas, M.D., M.S.P.H., is with the Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

  • Niteesh K. Choudhry,

    1. Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA,
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  • Mark W. Friedberg,

    1. Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA,
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  • M. Alan Brookhart,

    1. Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA,
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  • Jennifer S. Haas,

    1. Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
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  • William H. Shrank

    1. Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA,
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Abstract

Objective. To determine whether retail prices for prescription drugs are higher in poorer areas.

Data Sources. The MyFloridarx.com website, which provides retail prescription prices at Florida pharmacies, and median ZIP code income from the 2000 Census.

Study Design. We compared mean pharmacy prices for each of the four study drugs across ZIP code income groups. Pharmacies were classified as either chain pharmacies or independent pharmacies.

Data Collection. Prices were downloaded in November 2006.

Principal Findings. Across the four study drugs, mean prices were highest in the poorest ZIP codes: 9 percent above the statewide average. Independent pharmacies in the poorest ZIP codes charged the highest mean prices.

Conclusions. Retail prescription prices appear to be higher in poorer ZIP codes of Florida.

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