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When it comes to buying over-the-counter drugs, you may find there are more savings in store for you, if you buy store brand drugs – just as long as you don’t buy those store brand drugs from the drug store.

Got it?

A new price survey says you can achieve “significant savings” by purchasing private label health care products instead of brand names – even if you look for sales and use coupons.

That runs counter to what most budding couponers are taught – that you can get better deals on brand name items by combining promotions and coupons that just aren’t available for store brand products.

The survey is the latest to be conducted by the Private Label Manufacturers Association, a trade group that promotes store brand products. Their earlier price surveys have focused on grocery items, like the one conducted last Thanksgiving, which concluded that you could get a private label holiday feast for a lot less.

And now they say private label health care products win on price as well.

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For four weeks in February and March, PLMA researchers shopped for the same 40 brand-name items and their private label equivalents, an an unnamed store in the Northeast. And as with previous surveys, “prices were adjusted to account for all known discounts, coupons and promotions available.”

From eye drops to cough drops, acetaminophen to electric toothbrushes, the survey found that every single store brand product on its list was less expensive than its name brand equivalent – some by a lot. At $9.99, for example, a store brand blood glucose tester was half the price of the $19.99 name brand version. And you could knock at least a buck or two off your total by buying store brand bandages, antacid, sinus spray and shaving gel.

In total, the researchers paid an average of $655.07 for the name brand items on their list, and $488.68 on the private label versions – a savings of about 25%.

But your savings percentage may vary, depending on where you buy your health care products. If you stock up on private label over-the-counter drugs at the drug store – you may be paying too much.

A 2013 survey conducted by ShopSmart magazine found that Target and Walmart offer better deals on both name brand and store brand over-the-counter-drugs than CVS and Walgreens. A bottle of Aleve that went for $5.74 at Walgreens, was a mere $3.87 at Walmart. Store-brand ibuprofen was $3.59 at Walgreens, while the same sized bottle was just 97 cents at Target. In all, Walmart had the most low prices in the survey, while Walgreens’ prices were highest.

Of course, the magazine advised, when shopping at a drug store, “you can find deals if you catch a sale, use coupons, and always scan your loyalty card.” And even the PLMA’s insistence that it took sales and coupons into account, doesn’t tell the whole story. Since its prices were averaged over four weeks, any savings that were offered one week, were wiped out by the regular prices charged during the other three weeks. And the coupons it considered were just the ones that were available in store or in the newspaper – it didn’t take digital coupons or printables into account.

As the PLMA has said about past price surveys, this one is not meant to be a scientific study. It’s just meant to show shoppers who don’t necessarily have the patience to use coupons and watch for sales, that private label may be the way to go. For the rest of us – don’t toss aside those coupons, and don’t diss the drug store. Those “expensive” name brand products just might be the best deal after all.

Photo by PinkMoose

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