Prescription Fee Charges On OTC Drugs

It has come to the attention of the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) that some pharmacies charge a prescription fee for the dispensing of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, without informing customers of such a fee. In effect customers become aware of such a charge only after purchase when their bills reflect a price higher than the price at which the drug is displayed.

This practice is prohibited under Section 41 of the Fair Competition Act (FCA) which deals with sale above advertised price. The FTC has therefore sought the assistance of the Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica in urging its members to inform their customers prior to purchase that OTC drugs when dispensed pursuant to a prescription attract a prescription fee. We were informed by the Society that pharmacy owners are members of the Society only if they are also pharmacists.

In an effort to get this relevant information out to pharmacy owners, the FTC sent letters to a number of pharmacy owners advising that failure to disclose to customers, prior to purchase, any additional charge, could result in a breach of the FCA. Specifically, if customers’ bills reflect a higher price for an item than the price at which the same item is displayed, that would amount to sale above advertised price, which is a breach of Section 41 of the FCA.

Checks by the FTC reveal that this prescription fee can amount to as much as .00 per item. Note that the FCA does not prohibit the charging of such fees; what is prohibited is the omission of relevant information which is necessary for customers to make informed choices.

The FTC now advises the public that some pharmacies charge a prescription fee for OTC drugs when such drugs are dispensed pursuant to a prescription; and therefore consumers should seek information as to such fees prior to purchase.

The FTC remains committed to fostering and maintaining a competitive environment for the benefit of all—consumers and suppliers.