Kat Campisi is a long way from home.
She’s also a long way from her Kaiser Permanente pharmacy. Unfortunately for Campisi, Kaiser only runs their insurance prices through their own pharmacy or through mail-in, which could take days.
Although she has good insurance and would normally have access to sufficient health care, Campisi does not have access to that in San Luis Obispo.
Her only option is to turn to a local pharmacy for her prescription needs.
Medication, whether for mental health or a common virus, can become very costly, especially on the student budget. Cal Poly is proud to provide numerous health resources at the Health Center, one of which being the pharmacy.
“I liked that the prescriptions were cheap. Antibiotics for strep were $5,” Cal Poly dairy science alumna Campisi said. “When I had to get antibiotics this year at Costco they were $40.”
Ranging from antibacterial remedies to inhalers, the list of medications offered soars into the hundreds. But what separates the Cal Poly Pharmacy from other medication providers is the pricing.
San Luis Obispo has numerous places to pick up prescriptions: CVS, Rite-Aid, Costco. All places listed have brand-name and generic medications, which have price differences of their own.
Brand-name medications such as Xanax — a sedative created to treat anxiety and panic disorder — have generic reproductions sold for much lesser prices. In this case, Alprazolam was created to offer patients an alternative that can be around eight times less expensive than the brand-name pill.
Medical advances make it possible for most modern medications to have such an option. Patients with or without insurance are able to get their prescription at a much more affordable price.
Generic pharmaceuticals lower the price of each medication, but the Cal Poly Pharmacy beats almost all of these price drops.
Rite-Aid offers an Rx Savings Program. The program promises $9.99 for a 30-day supply of most of its products.
This may seem like a sweet deal, but compared to Cal Poly prices, the Rite-Aid deal sours.
Amoxicillin, a penicillin antibiotic, treats infections and stomach ulcers. A 30 day supply of 250 mg pills costs the promised $9.99 at Rite-Aid. The Cal Poly Pharmacy offers the same dosage and pill count for a flat $5. Costco sells Amoxicillin for an even higher price, at $12.88.
A 30-day supply of 40 mg Citalopram – used to treat depression – costs only $4 at the Cal Poly Pharmacy. Rite-Aid stays true to their $9.99 deal, and Costco is the highest price again at $12.88.
Modafinil is used to treat narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and shift work sleep disorder. A 30-day supply of 200 mg pills is $46 at the health center, making it one of the more expensive medications offered, but neither Rite-Aid nor Costco have Modafinil available.
This price difference holds true for a high percentage of medications offered through the university pharmacy. Charges are sent to the student account of the patient.
The Cal Poly Pharmacy is accessible to all students who are registered in the current quarter. Students enrolled in other California State Universities (CSU) are also eligible for basic services at no additional charge.
Continuing students who were enrolled the previous quarter, or are not currently enrolled but will be enrolled next quarter, are eligible to be seen under fee-for-service charges conditions. This is also true for participants of campus-sponsored programs, such as Extended Education or Quarter Plus.
Campisi graduated in June of 2018 and is now unable to receive aid from the Health Center.
“The staff there have always been so helpful and friendly as well,” Campisi said. “I don’t think I ever paid more than $20 for anything, and probably not even that much.”
Insurance plays a large factor in the availability of pharmaceuticals for students. Other pharmacies may offer more affordable prices, but when a student has insurance, the price goes down to a similar level as Cal Poly Pharmacy.
The Cal Poly Pharmacy is available to any student, regardless of if they have insurance or not.
Cal Poly does not contract with insurance, but the prices are the same as, if not better than, an insurance copay. Insurance companies such as Kaiser, which are exclusive to their own hospitals and pharmacies, have their nearest pharmacy about 88 miles away.
With such a large population of students living on campus, the availability of the Health Center provides students easy access to not only fair-priced pharmaceuticals, but many services necessary to a healthy life. As a non-profit, the pharmacy is able to make valuable contracts allowing markups on the products to be minimal.
“I think it’s great,” Cal Poly Medical Director Aaron Baker said. “It eliminates the aspect of transportation and gives students access to cheap medication.”
Federal Drug Agency (FDA) approval on all medications is a main cause for their steep pricing. According to ScienceDirect.com, the average time it takes for a drug to become approved is 12 years. The cost can exceed $1 billion.
This causes drug prices in the United States to skyrocket when they are put on the market. The government does not receive the profits from the drug being sold, but benefits from the FDA approval cost. Drugs cannot be sold without FDA approval.
It seems that the game for the pharmaceutical industry from the distributor, the producer and even the government’s perspective is money. Being a non-profit, the services are there for the students benefit and wellbeing. The staff are committed to making sure the students get what they need on time and for an affordable price.
Making an appointment with Health Services or Counseling services can be done over the phone ((805) 756-1211 for Health Services and (805)-756-2511 for Counseling Services) or through email (firstname.lastname@example.org for Counseling Services). Students are also able to come to the Health Center in Building 27 to make an appointment in person or wait for a walk-in appointment if available.
After graduating, Campisi is now home with her parents, near a Kaiser Pharmacy where she can get the medical services she needs. She said she will always appreciate what Cal Poly Pharmacy was able to do for her during her time at Cal Poly.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Campisi is still able to receive aid from the Health Center. That has been corrected to say she is no longer able to receive their services.