Pharmacy Survey

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For most of us, a trip to the pharmacy every now and again is essential. But a recent survey showed cash strapped pensioners were actually foregoing those essential medicines because they were too expensive.

So in tough economic times, bargain hunting even at the chemist isn't just a hobby� it's a must.

Ian Todd is president of the Pharmacy Guild of South Australia. He says generics or home brand items are safe and often cheaper options.

"It's certainly a concern to people and there are lots of ways pharmacists try and help patients with the cost of medicines, both prescription and over the counter."

He says generics can save you between $2 and $10 per item.

"�people shouldn't be worried about taking those in most cases, because they are all made to the same exacting standards as the branded stuff."

And most people believe that items are generally more expensive at the pharmacy than at the supermarket.

But is that really the case? Today Tonight commissioned our very own shopping squad and sent them out to all the major pharmacy chains all over Adelaide to find out. Their mission was to track prices for 10 common pharmacy items.

The great competition in the Eastern suburbs meant their prices were generally lower. Individual product prices varied markedly. For example Codral cold and flu tablets ranged from $15.10 to $12.90 saving you a couple of dollars.

While Mylanta antacid cost $9.95 at one pharmacy and $7.05 somewhere else, saving almost three dollars.

While the prices might be generally on a par, it seems the service isn't. Most of our shopping squad were surprised at how differently they were treated in the various chemists.

"I think my biggest surprise was the contrast from one chemist shop to another. In one they were suspicious, and unhelpful and in some instances challenging," says Jackie.

But the suspicion wasn't universal:

"I went to one at Pooraka and they were just fantastic. They said yes, sure and if I couldn't find something, I'd ask one of the girls and they just helped me all along," says Irene.

Ian Todd says pharmacies are individually owned, not run by major conglomerates.

"So to differentiate ourselves from the person up the road often people will use price on those over the counter items as a way of attracting custom," says Ian.

You can improve the bottom line even further by making the most of the various loyalty schemes the pharmacies have. Two chains have a membership scheme linked to private health insurance.

Although it might be cheaper for some every day items to go straight to a supermarket, we sent our shopping squad out to compare prices on every day items such as Listerine, baby wipes and toilet paper. The prices were so competitive that it pays to do your homework before you leave the house.

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