The North Carolina Consumers Council PO Box 3401, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-3401 June 1996 Handling Consumer Grievances
Occasionally the CPS will refer consumers to
another agency better suited to handle particular
types of complaints. Examples of these are com-
plaints about insurance, professional services,
services that disappoint them. Little wonder,
and employment. Sometimes the Specialist
given the highly developed skills of advertisers.
recom-mends actions that the consumer can take
Consumers can only blame themselves if they
directly, such as by writing the home office of
believe everything they read or are told by sales
persons; and, if they do not consider their expenditures carefully.
assistance. They need not feel powerless. If they
On the other hand, consumers are entitled to
make their complaints known to the Attorney
receive the products and services that they are
General’s Consumer Protection Section,
promised. When they do not, they can get help.
consumers can help eliminate abuses and thus
They are not without power to right wrongs that
help other con-sumers as well as themselves.
Contact the Consumer Protection Section by
The North Carolina Attorny General has a
mail at P O Box 629, Raleigh NC 27502, or by
Consumer Protection Section whose function
is to protect the public from unlawful business practices. This office handles complaints ranging
from landlord-tenant relationships, new home
• Your name, address, and phone number
sales, home improvements, debt collection and
• The name of the business, address, phone and
credit practices, and personal and telephone
scams. A staff of more than 30 handles about
• Copies of paperwork (estimates, orders,
• Statement of your desired resolution.
complaints for which it attempted mediation. If
Food Tax, again
mediation efforts failed, their staff attorneys may file a legal action.
advocating this repeal since its earliest days. The
Complaints in writing are routed to a
issue is before the general assembly now.}
Consumer Specialist experienced in that type of complaint. A copy of the complaint is sent to the
named business. If the business does not respond
only YOU can tell your legislators in the General
to the complaint, the Consumer Protection
Assembly that their support of repeal is an action
Section contacts it again and tries to get
they must take if they want your support at other
satisfaction for the consumer if the complaint
times. They will only respond to voter howls, if
appears legitimate. Copies of all correspondence
anything. No one else can do it for YOU.
between the CPS and the business named in the
NCCC Newsletter, June 1996, Page 1 of 4.
Third, for generics, the average minimum
complete repeal (state and local 4%/2% tax) with
and maximum prices were $21.62 and $33.49,
the revenue being made up by a readjustment of
respectively, a difference of $11.87 or a 37%
saving if you buy at the low price store. That’s a
Call, speak to, or write your state Senator(s).
larger percentage saving, but fewer dollars as the
Tell them you want full (6%) repeal, this year, as
prices of the generics are considerably lower
Drug Prices --- Revisited Fourth, following the brand-generic
comparison a bit farther, the average saving from
What is Smart Buying
brand to generic was 56% and the average
--- Michael Rulison
difference in price was $43.50. Clearly there are
We all know that prices vary from store to
significant cost savings in generics, if the generic
store. And drug prices also vary considerably
truly is an equivalent substitute for the brand
from brand name to generic. In the last issue of
drug. This is something that the health care
this newsletter we presented data on drug prices
provider and the pharmacist must speak to.
obtained from stores in six pharmacy chains with
A note on methods
outlets in Chapel Hill or by mail. For 108 items
All prices were gathered in the fall of 1995, using a
(brand name and generic) the average prices
drug list prepared by pharmacologists. That list specified
ranged from $56.36 to $60.74, about a 7%
a strength (e.g. 40 mg), a form (e.g. tablet) and a quantity
(usually 100). The list was supplied to representatives of
Now, let’s consider the price benefits of
four drugs chains operating in Chapel Hill or Durham (Drug Emporium, Eckerd Drug, KMART, and Revco) and
diligent comparison shopping. In the original
to two mail order firms (Action Mail Order, Virginia
data, data for 70 prescription drugs and, where
Retired Persons Pharmacy). These representatives added
available, their generic counterparts, were ob-
their current prices and returned the forms.
tained. These drugs were chosen because they
are commonly used by senior citizens, who tend
As noted in our first article, none of the firms
to have more prescriptions per person than
clearly dominated the market with lower prices;
younger persons. Among the drugs were such
Among the six stores, for all the drugs they
brand names as Cardizem, Demerol, Glucotrol,
carried their prices varied about 7%. On the
Inderal, Lopressor, Naprosyn, Relafen, and
other hand, for particular drugs, differences of
$10 or more did exist among the six stores a
First, only one of the six vendors stocked all
majority of the time. Given other consumer
70 brands. But the other five stocked 63 or more.
values, like convenience, distance, and time,
But generic counterparts were available for only
consumers may wish to choose a one vendor as
35 to 39 of the brands. So the chance of getting a
their regular source. But it can pay off for them
generic was a little better than 50%, assuming
to do comparison shopping, by phone if possible,
for more expensive prescriptions and use the
Second, for brands, the average of minimum
results to chose a low cost vendor for major
prices, without regard to store, was $66.71; the
average of maximums was $87.73, assuming one
Other considerations in shopping efficiency
took a dose of all 70 drugs. So you could save
are getting your physician to prescribe quantities
$21 or 24% by buying at the low price store for
each drug. And looking at individual drugs, 46
conveniently without extra trips and phone calls.
had differences between low and high price
(You need to realize that a physician may put
vendors of $10 or more, and the other 24 had
limits on these conditions in order to monitor
differences of $1 to $9. So shopping for price
your drug usage and response to the drugs.)
would have offered you at least a $10 difference
NCCC Newsletter, June 1996, Page 2 of 4.
In developing NCCC Health SIG concerns, we would like to get a sense of whether significant problems
exist in filling drug prescriptions. Please answer the following questions and return the form to Martin Gonzalez, 626 Wells Ct, Chapel Hill, NC 27514.
Have you had any of the following experiences more than once:
Pharmacy did not provide entire quantity (capsules, tablets, etc.) of the drug. Pharmacy did not fill all prescriptions submitted in the same order.
Pharmacy did not provide prescribed (strength), e.g. 50 mg instead of 100 mg without discussing this
Pharmacy supplied a prescription intended for another client?
If you wish, please include your name and address::_____________________________________
NCCC has been renovating its mailing lists. Your label this month shows dues that are paid-up and those
that have expired. As of this mailing, dues are still $10 per year, no change for the past decade. How’s that for holding the line on inflation? But it can’t go on. Our dues are set vanishingly low in order to make it possible for almost enyone to join, but from those who can afford a bit more, a supplemental contribution would be very helpful.
Unfortunately: ¾ of those we mail to have not paid dues for a year or more. In order to carry out our program of food tax repeal and ratings and price surveys, we need more support. Repeal of the food tax would save $10 for every $166 of food that you buy; so the payback would be quick.
Please fill in grey areas only if the label is absent or wrong.
Group: Local ($30) Group: Sponsoring ($50)
Please mail to NCCC, PO BOX 3401, CHAPEL HILL, NC 27515-3401. We need all of you to give us a consumer presence in North Carolina.
NCCC Newsletter, June 1996, Page 3 of 4.
NCCC Officers and Board of Directors
First V.P. Marsh Hardy 919/834-1245 (Raleigh)
Secretary Albert Sawyer 919/942-2120 (Chapel Hill)
Other Board Members NCCC Annual Meeting
The NCCC annual meeting of members was held on Saturday, 27 April, in conjunction with the Consumer
Movement Rebirth workshop. In elections to the Board of Directors:
Carlene McNulty, Duncan MacRae, Marilyn Walker, and Lixiang Wang were elected for terms ending in
1997. Martin Gonzalez, Michael Rulison and Jane Sharp were elected for terms ending in 1999.
At the immediately following meeting of the Board, Michael Rulison, Marsh Hardy, and Jane Sharp were
returned to the offices of president, first vice-president, and treasurer, respectively. Alfred Oxenfeldt was elected second vice-president, and Albert Sawyer was confirmed as alternate to the treasurer.
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