The 4th Most Commonly Prescribed Drug in U.S. is More Expensive in Canada

The occasional overindulgence can give anyone heartburn. However, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) estimates that for approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population, heartburn is a daily occurrence. These people suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic disease that requires proper treatment to avoid long-term damage.

If diet and lifestyle changes cannot keep a person’s symptoms in check, doctors can prescribe a class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors. These drugs limit the amount of stomach acid a body can produce which promotes the healing of the damage done to the esophagus by stomach acid. One of these drugs is omeprazole, the generic version of Prilosec, and it was the fourth most frequently prescribed drug in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2016.

We wanted to compare the price for omeprazole at pharmacies in both the U.S. and in Canada. The best price that we could find for a 30-day supply of 20 mg omeprazole on in the U.S. was $4 at Kroger Pharmacy. Kroger has 2,792 stores in 35 states. We called a brick-and-mortar Safeway pharmacy in Winnipeg, Manitoba and they price that they quoted us for the same 30-day prescription was 24.10 CAD. After the conversation and the foreign exchange fee, the Canadian price for the same medication works out to $19.14 USD. The price for the same drug costs almost 80% less in the U.S. as it does in Canada.

Are generic drugs a big part of medications dispensed in America?

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, approximately 85% of all prescriptions filled in the U.S. are for generic drugs. Generics have the same effectiveness, strength, purity, safety, and active ingredients as brand-name drugs. The only differences in a generic are the inactive ingredients, appearance, and price. Generics can cost 85% less than the brand-name drugs they are virtually identical to. Of the 50 drugs on’s list of most prescribed medications in the first quarter of 2016, 47 of them, 94%, were for generics.

How can I use this tip to save money for my family?

Shopping around can save you on your prescription costs

According to Consumer Reports, about 40% of the people they surveyed said they had cut corners with their prescription drugs to make ends meet – splitting pills, skipping doses or not filling their prescriptions at all. If someone is concerned about the price of their medication, they should first speak with their doctor to see if a lower-cost alternative in the same class of drugs is available. What most people do not realize is that there can be a significant price difference for the same medication at different pharmacies in the same area.

The best option for anyone regardless of where they live is to have a NeedyMeds’ discount card. Their drug pricing tool allows a person to search for the best price their discount card can get. We searched for a 30-day supply of omeprazole in Portland, ME, Minneapolis, MN, and Buffalo, NY. All three of those states do not have any Kroger stores. The best price in all three was $8.80 at Walgreens. The highest prices that we saw in those areas were all over $20. Prices can fluctuate, so it is best to use the tool on the day you will be purchasing your prescriptions.

You can use the NeedyMeds’ drug pricing tool to price out the various medications that you need in your area. Please remember that it is important to have all of your medications filled at one location so that the pharmacist can monitor for any negative interactions.