Las Vegas ranks near the bottom in many health care categories, but this time it’s a good thing.
The prescription drug-tracking website GoodRx rated Las Vegas one of the least-expensive metropolitan areas in the country for out-of-pocket prescription drugs in a new report.
The reason for the city’s No. 9 ranking is unclear, largely because of a lack of transparency in prescription drug pricing, said Thomas Goetz, GoodRx’s chief of research.
“We can’t point to one single reason why there’s so much variation, but the fact that there is so much variation I think underscores the confusion and befuddlement and, frankly, pain that comes with prescription medication and prescription prices,” Goetz said.
For its survey, GoodRx used data it compiled for its proprietary online tool, which enables consumers to compare prescription drug prices in their area and download money-saving coupons.
The report looked at cash prices for the 500 most popular drugs in the country’s 30 most populous cities.
Las Vegas’ prices were 9.4 percent below the national average. Columbus, Ohio, had the lowest prices, with drugs costing 21.7 percent below the national figure on average.
In some cities, higher cost of living corresponded to higher prices, but not so in Las Vegas, where the Council for Community and Economic Research reports the cost of living to be 2.5 percent above the national average.
Las Vegas is likely among the cities benefiting from the availability of big-box stores that sell generic medications, often at cheaper prices, Goetz said.
Walmart, for example, sells a list of generic drugs at $4 for a one-month supply or $10 for a 90-day stash, according to the company’s website. And there are 28 Walmart pharmacies in the valley.
But Goetz said the report points to a lack of transparency on the part of drug manufacturers in setting costs.
Lowering drug prices has been a hot topic in Washington. Most recently, President Donald Trump lashed out at Pfizer on Monday after the company raised prices on about 100 drugs on July 1.
But Goetz criticized the talk as just that.
“There’s been a lot of smoke and not a lot of movement,” he said. “Until there’s some real progress or movement from drugmakers or from the government on a regulator level, until there’s some changes, the only thing consumers can do is they can be savvier.”
Leiana Oswald, associate professor of pharmacy practice at Roseman University of Health Sciences in Henderson, said tools like GoodRx can be useful for consumers and pharmacists. She said customers should also get in the habit of asking for coupons at the pharmacy counter, checking for discounts through the drug manufacturer and comparing a drug’s cash price to the cost after insurance.
“I think that the best thing that patients can do is to be that squeaky wheel, to ask those questions,” she said.