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Can a phone app help you find cheaper drugs?

We compared 4 and found 2 that worked well

Published: August 2013

The GoodRx app is worth a try.

With all the mobile apps out there claiming to help cut your costs at the pharmacy counter, it can be tough to distinguish the money savers from the time wasters. To find out whether they really work, we tried four of them—GoodRx, LowestMed, Mobile Rx Card, and WeRx—to price a month’s supply of the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor (40 milligrams) and its generic equivalent, atorvastatin, using a ZIP code near our offices in Yonkers, N.Y.

We also tested whether the apps would tap into generic discount plans by pricing another cholesterol drug, pravastatin (Pravachol and generic). And we priced an over-the-counter pain reliever Advil and its generic, ibuprofen (200mg). GoodRx and WeRx worked well, and LowestMed is worth a try, but we suggest that you skip the other one. Here’s why.

Two to try

Prices and devices: GoodRx and WeRx are both free for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, and GoodRx is also Android-compatible.


Why we liked them: Both apps are easy-to-use, offer money-saving tips, information about $4 generic and pharmacy rewards programs, search by condition, and the option to search for pharmacies by ZIP code or detect your location using GPS. But GoodRx was best at finding the lowest prices in stores and online. For example, when we checked Lipitor, we got prices ranging from $194.77 and $223.59 for 30 pills, and $14.31 to $23.70 for atorvastatin.


Advil prices ranged from $11.09 to $14.49 for 90 pills, and its generic, ibuprofen, costs $9.06 at one location for 90 pills.


WeRx found slightly higher prices. For example, Lipitor prices ranged from $221.18 to $223.68 for 30 pills. Yet, WeRx found prices at a wider selection of local mom-and-pop stores, and offers an easy “report price” button that allows you to share the most up-to-date retail price you find at local pharmacies.


One inconvenience: Neither app found prices for the over-the-counter drugs Advil and ibuprofen. We searched for several other OTCs, and also came up empty. GoodRx instead provided a link to Advil prices on Amazon.com.


One to consider

LowestMed: This much-hyped app did not find the lowest prices on Lipitor, but compared with the other three apps, it turned up the lowest price for Pravachol (40mg)—$169.76 for 30 pills, and $4 for the generic equivalent, pravastatin, and was the only app to offer pricing for Advil and ibuprofen.


While the app is easy to use, it has a signifigant flaw: It lacks a sort-by-distance feature, and the pharmacies it found weren’t exactly nearby. Several of the pharmacies that it recommended we visit were in New Jersey and even upper Manhattan, about 20 miles away from us.


One to skip

Mobile Rx Card: The app is more difficult to navigate than the other drug-comparison apps we tried. It offers a drug pricing tool and pharmacy locator like the others, but sorts by distance from your location, rather than price, making it tedious and time-consuming to figure out which stores actually offer the lowest prices. Additionally, because the app itself is essentially a discount, you must use participating pharmacies.

Editor's Note: This article and related materials are made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by the multi-state settlement of consumer-fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin (gabapentin).
   

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