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Surveys Find Local Pharmacies Cheaper than Chains

| Written by Stacy Mitchell | No Comments | Updated on Nov 1, 2002 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

In October, the Maine Department of Human Services released its third annual survey of prescription prices for fifteen common drugs at 106 independent and chain pharmacies statewide. The ten lowest priced pharmacies (based on the cost of all fifteen drugs combined) were all locally owned drugstores. National chains, including Rite Aid, CVS, and Brooks, had among the highest overall costs.

Even more revealing, prices at Wal-Mart pharmacies, which ranked somewhere in the middle overall, varied substantially from one location to the next. Of the seven Wal-Mart stores surveyed, the total price for all fifteen drugs ranged from $691.52 to $805.33—a difference of more than 16 percent. Wal-Mart’s prices were lowest in those markets where it still faces a fair amount of competition, including Augusta and Bangor, and highest in those areas, like Lincoln and Calais, where it is practically the only game in town.

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs reached a similar conclusion in its own survey, which concluded, “Contrary to conventional wisdom, independent pharmacies were often cheaper than the chains.” As in Maine, the survey found, “Drugstore chains showed wide price differentials for the same drugs among their own stores.”


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About Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and directs its Community-Scaled Economy Initiative, which produces research and analysis, and partners with a range of allies to design and implement policies that curb economic consolidation and strengthen community-rooted enterprise.  She is the author of Big-Box Swindle and also produces a popular monthly newsletter, the Hometown Advantage Bulletin.  Connect with her on twitter and catch her TEDx Talk: Why We Can’t Shop Our Way to a Better Economy. More

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