By Andrea Pyka
An estimated 6,448,540 uninsured Californians makeup over 15 percent of the state’s total population, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Of all those uninsured, over two million require individual health insurance because they are not eligible for coverage through their employer or through Medicaid or Medicare.
According to Warren Wong, pharmacist and manager at Costco Pharmacy in Santa Cruz, many people purchase their prescription drugs at Costco because the pharmacy offers prescription medicines at a lower cost, and does not require insurance.
"More people shop at Costco because they trust us," Wong said. "People go to Costco when they know they want a good deal."
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s website, in 2004 the National Association of Chain Drugs stated that the average price of a generic prescription drug was $28.71, while the price of a brand-name prescription drug was $96.01.
"Compared to Costco, some pharmacies don’t have the buying power," Wong said. The pharmacy is only a small component of the Costco warehouse, a big company that can afford to run a pharmacy at a very low cost.
Steve Phair, a pharmacy technician at a Santa Cruz Rite Aid, explains that "each pharmacy selects certain drugs and sells them for various prices to get people to come; it creates a lot of competition."
Rite Aid offers brand name medications at a standard price. Yet, customers also have the option of buying cheaper, generic drugs without the need for insurance.
According to Phair, a 20-milligram container of Prozac, the most commonly prescribed drug, varies in prices between pharmacies.
For example, Rite Aid sells Prozac for $34.99, Longs Drugs sells it for $43.93, and Walgreens sells it for $35.99.
Chloe Raftery, a third-year student at UC Santa Cruz, has been taking Topamax-a prescription drug for migraines-on and off for three years.
Raftery, whose insurance pays for her prescription medicine, believes that the cost of insurance can pose a problem for people with low incomes and that the cost should be lowered.
"Some people need certain prescription drugs to be functional and with the government putting the high cost on drugs, it’s like the government is denying low income people their functionality," Raftery said. "People aren’t just going to do yoga to get better."