The least costly pharmacy for cancer supportive care medications over time: the logistic toxicity of playing catch up

Andrew Etteldorf, Ramy Sedhom, Shannon M. Rotolo, Rachel I. Vogel, Christopher M. Booth, Anne H. Blaes, Beth A. Virnig, Stacie B. Dusetzina, Arjun Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose: No single pharmacy in an urban zip code is consistently the least expensive across medications. If medication prices change differently across pharmacies, patients and clinicians will face challenges accessing affordable medications when refilling medications. This is especially pertinent to people with cancer with multiple fills of supportive care medications over time. We evaluated if the lowest-priced pharmacy for a formulation remains the lowest-priced over time. Methods: We compiled generic medications used to manage nausea/vomiting (14 formulations) and anorexia/cachexia (12 formulations). We extracted discounted prices in October 2021 and again in March 2022 for a typical fill at 8 pharmacies in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA (zip code 55,414) using We examined how prices changed across formulations and pharmacies over time. Results: Data were available for all 208 possible pharmacy-formulation combinations (8 pharmacies × 26 formulations). For 172 (83%) of the 208 pharmacy-formulation combinations, the March 2022 price was within 20% of the October 2021 price. Across pharmacy-formulation combinations, the price change over time ranged from − 76 to + 292%. For 12 (46%) of the 26 formulations, at least one pharmacy with the lowest price in October 2021 no longer was the least costly in March 2022. For one formulation (dronabinol tablets), the least expensive pharmacy became the most expensive, with an absolute and relative price increase of a fill of $22 and 85%. Conclusion: For almost half of formulations studied, at least one pharmacy with the lowest price was no longer the least costly a few months later. The lowest price for a formulation (across pharmacies) could also change considerably. Thus, even if a patient accesses the least expensive pharmacy for a medication, they may need to re-check prices across all pharmacies with each subsequent fill to access the lowest prices. In addition to safety concerns, directing medications to and accessing medications at multiple pharmacies can add time and logistic toxicity to patients with cancer, their care partners, prescribers, and pharmacy teams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Cancer
  • Drug prices
  • Financial toxicity
  • Logistic toxicity
  • Lowest cost pharmacy
  • Time toxicity

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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