Stop paying high out-of-pocket drug prices at retail pharmacies

This article is part of an ongoing series around practical ways you can save money on your prescription meds. Other savings tips include: switching from brand to generic, switching from 30-day to 90-day refills, and paying out-of-pocket instead of using insurance. 

In 2018, nearly 30 million adult Americans were uninsured. These patients were three times more likely to delay or not pick up a prescription drug because they could not afford it. Additionally, 45% of U.S. adults were underinsured in 2018, which also led to delays in healthcare and prescription medication. You are underinsured if you have high out-of-pocket costs or high deductibles. A person is considered underinsured if any of these apply: – annual out of pocket costs (OOP) > 10% of household income (or >5% for those living under 2x the federal poverty level income) – deductible > 5% of household income.

When you are underinsured or uninsured, you often must pay for medications out-of-pocket: 

  • When you’re underinsured, you need to meet your deductible before insurance starts to help pay for your meds. In the meantime, you often have to pay the full price. 
  • When you’re uninsured, you have to pay the full price. 

When you have to pay for medications out-of-pocket, the traditional option is to go to a retail pharmacy. However, there is a lower-cost alternative: online pharmacies. 

What is the difference between a retail vs. online pharmacy?

When we say “retail pharmacy,” we are referring to your traditional brick-and-mortar pharmacy: it’s on your neighborhood corner, where you wait in line, speak to a pharmacist behind a counter, and pick up your medications. Some examples of big chain retail pharmacies in the U.S. include CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart. 

On the other hand, an online pharmacy does not require you to drive your car to a strip mall. They still have a pharmacy where pharmacists fill prescriptions, but instead of you coming in person to pick up your medication, the prescriptions are mailed directly to your home. 

The main difference is that with a retail pharmacy, you come to your meds. With an online pharmacy, your meds come to you. 

Are online pharmacies safe? 

There are certain things you can check to ensure that an online pharmacy is legitimate. Since there are some scam online companies claiming to be pharmacies, it is important to check the following list before ordering medications online. According to the FDA, these are the signs of a safe online pharmacy:

  1. Check the pharmacy is fully licensed and registered with the government. You can do this in a few different ways: 
    • Look them up on — the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy created this website so you can check whether an online pharmacy is trustworthy.
    • Check LegitScript — this independent organization verifies and monitors online pharmacies.
    • Look up the pharmacy’s license — for example, you can see Honeybee’s pharmacy license at the California State Pharmacy Board
  2. Ensure that the online pharmacy requires a valid, U.S. prescription and only ships within the United States. 
  3. Make sure you can consult with U.S. based, state-licensed pharmacists through the pharmacy — when ordering through Honeybee, you can always speak with one of Honeybee’s in-house pharmacists. You can reach one at 833-466-3979 or support@localhost. 

Pharmacies that meet the above requirements are perfectly safe to order from. 

Legitimate online pharmacies like Honeybee are FDA-regulated and licensed just like traditional retail pharmacies. We only buy our medications from FDA-approved, U.S. wholesalers. 

Why should I switch to an online pharmacy? 

Switching to an online pharmacy can save you time. Since the meds are shipped to your house directly (often for free!), you no longer have to commute to a physical pharmacy or wait in line. 

Besides convenience, the main advantage of an online pharmacy is lower prices.

For instance, Lipitor (Atorvastatin) is the most popular generic prescription cholesterol medication. The average cash price for 30 tablets is $86 at retail pharmacies. At Honeybee, the cash price for 30 tablets of Lipitor is only $9. 

That means you could be saving $924 a year if you pay out-of-pocket at Honeybee instead of a retail pharmacy!

In the table below, we have highlighted the price differences for twenty of the most popular maintenance medications, comparing traditional retail pharmacies’ cash (out-of-pocket) prices to those of our online pharmacy. 

We found that the out-of-pocket cost at retail pharmacies is around 5 times the out-of-pocket cost at an online pharmacy like Honeybee. 

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*All prices listed are for 30-day refills. Price difference calculated based on a comparison of the same strength, form, and daily dosage using GoodRx data for average retail prices. All medication prices are for the generic form of the drug. Prices are subject to change.

Why are online pharmacies so much more affordable?

Prices at traditional retail pharmacies are often much higher because multiple markups have been added by industry middlemen. By the time the drug gets from the manufacturer to the customer, other entities (wholesale distributors, pharmacy benefit managers, insurance companies, etc.) have added to the cost in order to gain a profit. 

Honeybee cuts costs by using a much simpler system. First, we buy our meds directly from U.S. wholesalers and sell them directly to you. Second, rather than maintaining brick-and-mortar pharmacy locations around the country, we focus on meeting customer needs remotely from our office in Culver City, California. By shortening the path between patients and their medications, we save our valued customers money.
Still not sure? You can read more about how we work here and here.

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Jessica Nouhavandi