Survey shows varying prices at drug store
Ulli Diemer Seven News, August 28, 1976
It pays to shop around before you decide with which drug store to do business.
This is the conclusion of a survey of Ward 7 drug stores carried out recently by Seven News staff.
The survey compared the prices of a number of prescription drugs and non-prescription items in drug stores across the Ward.
The results showed price differences of up to 50% on both prescription drugs and other goods, such as vitamins and toothpaste, that are usually purchased in drug stores. Such differences existed on both brand name and generic drugs. A majority of stores fill generic prescriptions with higher-priced brand-name equivalents, so a doctor prescribing generically to save his patients money has no guarantee that this is actually happening.
The survey also showed different attitudes to customer service. Some pharmacists are happy to indicate their prices to customers on the telephone; others do so grudgingly or flatly refuse. A few claimed that “professional ethics” forbid them to discuss prices with ordinary people!
The survey of prescription drugs, based on five commonly prescribed drugs (Diazepam, a tranquilizer; Ortho-Nuvum, a birth control pill; Digoxin, a heart drug; Ampicillan, an anti-infective agent; and Dilantin, an anticonvulsant) showed that Shoppers’ Drug Mart (467 Parliament St. and St. Jamestown) is the cheapest place to get your prescriptions filled. The prescription in question would have cost slight under $16.00. In second place about a dollar more expensive on the five items, was Woodgreen Drug Store, at Queen and Logan. Third is Broadview Drugs (381 Broadview), just slightly more expensive. Close together were the next four stores Rosedale (600 Sherbourne), Drugtown (595 Parliament), Moore’s (643 Danforth, and Roger’s (743 Broadview). All four charged around $18.00. Next, near the $19.00 mark, was Cohen’s (320 Parliament). Slightly higher still was Dale Bros. (201 Wellesley).
More expensive yet was Hooper’s (Bloor & Sherbourne). The most expensive of all on the five items was Simpson Chemists (699 Danforth). The prescription in question would have cost $20.00 to fill at Simpson’s $4,00, or 25% more than at Shoppers.
However, those with good prices for prescriptions were not always good for non-prescription drugs items. Nine common items, in identical brands and sizes, were surveyed in this category. Included were deodorant, adhesive bandages, condoms, toothpaste, sanitary napkins, razor blades and aspirin.
Other again Shopper’s Drug Mart was cheapest with the store in St. Jamestown slightly better than the one on Parliament. Close behind was Drugtown, followed by McDermott’s (703 Queen) , and Family Centre (1015 Broadview). Then came Dale Bros., Rosedale, and Rogers. Most expensive were Hellenic (410 Danforth), Woodgreen (one of the cheapest for prescription drugs), Hooper’s, and Broadview.
The survey also showed that while most stores in the area belong to the Ontario Government’s Parcost scheme for drug prices, this is no way guarantees uniformity in prices. This came as a surprise to at least one druggist, the pharmacist at Roger’s Drug Store who suggested to a Seven News reporter that the paper’s survey was unnecessary since Parcost price indices are available at libraries. Yet of all the stores in the Ward surveyed on the item in question, only two, Roger’s and Drugtown, charged the recommended price. Interesting, half of them charged more than the recommended price, half of them less.
The Parcost programme itself comes under fire from at least one researcher, Joel Lexchin, author of The Economics of Drug Prices in Canada. He points out that Parcost likely actually increase drug prices in many cases since it allows for a dispensing fee higher than that which most druggists were charging before the programme was introduced. However, Lexchin pins most of the blame for high drug prices on the large drug companies, whose profit margins he categorizes as enormous.
The Seven News survey also indicated that price is not the only important difference between drug stores. Quality of service was cited as a key factor by both customers and druggists. The Seven News team found that low prices and good service do not necessarily go together.
While most drug stores give competent service to their customers, some stood out as being particularly concerned, helpful, and friendly. Heading the list in this regard were Rosedale Drugs, Drugtown, Simpson Chemists, Moore’s, Broadview and Dale Brothers.
At the other extreme were Family Centre, Hellenic and Lyons, all of whom were characterized as rude and arrogant by customers gathering information for Seven News.