Back to blog
Posted by Chantal Renaud, Group Insurance and Group Annuity Plans Advisor, September 27 2017
Health Insurance
Drug Cost Comparison: 6 Elements To Keep In Mind


On a nice rainy Saturday morning, you get up and decide it’s time to buy a new TV. What do you do? Depending on your shopping habits, chances are you will visit some websites to compare  prices and features of various models or you may go directly to a few small or large stores.

On a nice sunny Saturday afternoon, you realize that your pill box is almost empty. What do you do? Turn to the Internet? Visit a few pharmacies and perform drug cost comparison? No, you will most probably go to the nearest pharmacy to get your new prescription filled.

What’s the point of shopping around for prescription drugs? Since all pharmacies dispense the same pill, they must all charge the same price. Don’t they? Of course not! Keep reading to learn how you can start saving!

Major differences

According to a study by Telus Health Solutions, prices vary by more than 40% between different banners (based on the average prices charged).  They can even vary twofold or more for some drugs! You heard right: for example, a month’s supply of Pantoloc tablets can cost $19 or $46 depending on where you choose to go! Over a full year, we are talking about a difference of $324 for the exact same pill. That’s huge!

Pharmacy chains and banners

You could at least assume that all Jean-Coutu or Familiprix pharmacies charge the same prices for the same drugs, but is this true? Not really. Price differences have also been observed between pharmacies belonging to the same banner. According to a study released by Protégez-Vous in October 2017, only Costco and Pharmaprix charge very similar prices from one pharmacy to another. Significant price differences were noted for all other banners.

The October 2017 Protégez-Vous study also revealed that, on average, Pharmaprix drug stores are the most expensive whereas Costco pharmacies are the least expensive. However, it is possible to find better prices if you start a drug cost comparison and shop around.

What accounts for such major differences? It all comes down to pharmacist margins and fees. Each pharmacy is a retail business facing different operating conditions: client base, rent, staff, etc. Pharmacies therefore set their fees and margins based on their needs and objectives.

Greater transparency makes it easier to start a drug cost comparison

Good news! As mentioned in our previous article, since September 15, 2017, pharmacists must disclose their margins and fees on the receipts they deliver to their clients. With this change, insured members will gain a better understanding of their prescription drug prices and thus be in a position to shop around and perform a drug cost comparison.

What about the Internet?

A few pharmacies offer mail delivery of prescription drugs ordered by phone or online. According to the Protégez-Vous study, Picard & Desjardins is the only pharmacy providing real savings. Moreover, their website allows you to make a drug cost comparison of your prescription drugs in the comfort of your home. You can access the price comparison tool from your secured connection to AGA Benefit Solutions Members Portal.

Managing your medication record

It is important to compare prices for all your medications. It would not be in your interest to purchase one prescription drug in a pharmacy and the rest in another, as this could prevent the pharmacist from advising you about possible interactions between the medications you take.

Other tips to help you save

You can view our video or download the guide below featuring 4 simple tips that can help you save on your prescription drugs. Your savings will be reflected immediately on the price you pay, but also eventually on your group insurance premiums that are directly related to the total amount claimed by all plan members.


With AGA Benefit Solutions for more than 20 years, Chantal has the experience required to help businesses of all sizes set up and administer their group insurance plans. Her proactive approach leads to an informed vision of the various strategic planning opportunities. With her professionalism, determination and excellent communication skills, Chantal makes sure her clients fully understand the issues pertaining to group insurance and retirement plans.
Chantal Renaud, Group Insurance and Group Annuity Plans Advisor