CONSUMERS AND PRICES These studies find that chains are not always a bargain.

Pharmacy Buying Guide.” Consumer Reports, Dec. 2015.

Consumer Reports‘s survey of pharmacies has consistently found that independent pharmacies earn top marks on a range of metrics, and are competitive on price, and its Dec. 2015 update to its pharmacy information is no exception. Not only are independents the preferred option for speed and accuracy, courtesy and helpfulness, and pharmacists’ knowledge, Consumer Reports found, but also offer “real bargains.” At independents, “pharmacists may have more flexibility to match or beat competitor prices” for customers who are paying out-of-pocket. In a national price scan in six areas around the U.S., Consumer Reports found that big pharmacy chains such as CVS and Rite Aid had the highest out-of-pocket prices, and the undercover shoppers “found some of the best deals at mom-and-pop stores.” For those with health insurance who have met their deductible, the co-pay is usually the same regardless of the pharmacy. In terms of service, independents easily beat their competition. Writes Consumer Reports: “At least 90 percent of shoppers at independents rated their pharmacy as Excellent or Very Good in speed & accuracy, courtesy & helpfulness, and pharmacists’ knowledge. No other type of drug store came close. Readers who shopped at independent stores were twice as likely as chain-drug-store shoppers to characterize their druggist as easy to talk to and able to give them a one-on-one consultation.”

North Dakota’s Pharmacy Ownership Law: Ensuring Access, Competitive Prices, and Quality Care.” Olivia LaVecchia and Stacy Mitchell, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Oct. 2014.

This report finds that thanks to a forward-thinking state law that keeps ownership and control of pharmacies in the hands of local pharmacists, instead of large chains, North Dakota’s prescription drug prices are among the lowest in the country. Over the most recent five-year period, North Dakota ranked 13th in lowest prescription drug prices among the 50 states, and compared with South Dakota, the average prescription price is not only lower, but has increased much more slowly over the last five years. The report also finds that North Dakotans experience an unparalleled level of pharmacy access and care.

Wrestling with Walmart: Tradeoffs Between Profits, Prices, and Wages.” Jared Bernstein, Josh Bivens, and Arindrajit Dube, Economic Policy Institute, June 15, 2006.

This analysis refutes the findings of a 2005 study by Global Insights (GI) that found that Walmart saves U.S. consumers $263 billion annually, or $2,329 for the average household. The Economic Policy Institute concludes that the GI study is “fraught with problems.” It identifies major internal inconsistencies in GI’s figures and finds that the firm’s statistical analysis “fails the most rudimentary sensitivity checks.” The authors state, “Once we addressed these weaknesses the statistical and practical significance of Walmart’s price effects effectively vanished.”