Consumer Reports' drugstore ratings: 94% of shoppers "highly satisfied" with independents
New drugstore Ratings published in the May issue of Consumer Reports and available online at www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org reveal that the overwhelming majority (94%) of readers are highly satisfied with their experiences at neighborhood independent drugstores. While customers said they were generally satisfied with their pharmacies, some were irked by long waits and lagging service at some big box stores.
“Chalk one up for the little guy,” said Tod Marks, senior editor, Consumer Reports. “We found that the independents made fewer errors, offered swifter service at the pharmacy counter, and were more likely to have medications ready for pick up when promised.”
The report also warns that rogue pharmacies continue to operate on the Internet, selling non-FDA-approved drugs, as well as narcotics, and risky supplements for sexual performance and weight loss.
Some survey highlights, based on responses from 43,739 readers of Consumer Reports, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, are highlighted below:
- Kudos to Independents: More than 90 percent of readers gave independent drugstores top scores across the board for pharmacists’ knowledge about drugs and other products, helpfulness and courtesy, speed, accuracy, and personal service. Included in this group are HealthMart and The Medicine Shoppe, two chain-like independents that did equally well. Readers who shopped at independents were twice as likely as chain drugstore shoppers to characterize their druggist as easy to talk to and able to give them a one-on-one consultation.
- Big box stores, the pick for cash customers: Twenty-two percent of readers fill their prescriptions at big box stores, up from 14 percent in 2002, with price cited as an important reason for shopping there. But service lags. One in four mass merchant shoppers complained of a long wait at the service counter. And when a store was out of a drug, a third (33 percent) waited for two or more days to get their prescription. Walmart was among the lowest rated stores overall and the only one judged worse than average in speed, accuracy, and personalized service.
- Top gripes: Thirty-two percent of readers reported their pharmacy was out of stock on the medicine they needed at least once in the past year. Also, 21 percent cited slow service at the counter, while 15 percent of those surveyed complained that their medicine wasn’t ready for pickup when promised.
- Shoppers demand speed: Forty-nine percent of readers said the ability to get in and out quickly with medicine in hand was an important consideration when choosing a drugstore. Sixteen percent said on-time delivery was problematic, versus 24 percent in CR’s 2002 survey.
- More doctors prescribing electronically, but still not enough: Sixty-nine percent of readers said they drop off paper prescriptions when using walk-in pharmacies. Today, 40 percent of doctors are e-prescribing, up from less than one percent six years ago. Yet that represents only about 18 percent of all eligible prescriptions in 2010. Experts say that if more prescriptions were transmitted electronically it would help eliminate medication errors due to variables like poor handwriting, wrong dosing instructions, missed drug interactions, and patient allergies. Supermarkets do well: As a group, the nation’s 9,000 or so supermarket pharmacies also did well in the survey. Eighty-four percent of readers who bought drugs there were highly satisfied.
CAUTION URGED ON THE INTERNET
The report also warns about the Internet on two fronts. Consumers looking for answers online instead of from a health-care professional are swimming with the sharks. That’s because of the heavy influence of brand drugmakers with billions of dollars to spend on marketing to consumers. A second consumer concern involves the abundance of rogue pharmacies. Of the more than 7,000 online drugstores whose practices the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) has reviewed, only about 3.5% appear to be legitimate.
Some steps consumers can take when buying drugs online:
- Note that credible online pharmacies include those affiliated with physical stores such as www.CVS.com.
- Make sure an unfamiliar site is licensed by your state’s Board of Pharmacy. To do so, search for, say, “California board of pharmacy,” and follow the links to verify that the site is legitimate.
- Look for the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) seal, a good sign that a site complies with regulations that adhere to best pharmacy practices.
- Check the NABP for a list of sites that it does not recommend. Go to www.nabp.net/programs.
- Also, check LegitScript, another organization that verifies pharmacies doing business online in accordance with NABP recognized standards. Go to www.legitscript.com.