It's not uncommon for a life-saving drug to cost hundreds of dollars.

Channel 3 called around and learned you could save hundreds of dollars on medicine, just by doing some research.

If you are not using insurance to buy medicine, you have to pay what is called the "cash price" for the full cost of a drug. However, many people don't realize that price can vary by hundreds of dollars depending on where you go to get it.

Shopping around for the best deal is something consumers do every day. But do you shop around to find the best price for medicine?

If you don't, you will want to start.

"Most people don't ask. They just pay for it and go on and just suffer the consequences financially month after month. That's not a good way to go either," said Pharmacist Phillip Smith with Access Pharmacy in Hixson.

Prescriptions can be expensive.

If you are paying the cash price, the cost could be different at nearly every pharmacy.

Channel 3 compared six local pharmacies, including big chains like Walmart, wholesale retailer Sam’s Club and even local pharmacies like Access Pharmacy. We asked for the cash price of three different common drugs. We made sure to get the cost for the same brand, dosage, and length of each medication.

The difference between the highest total cost and the lowest was $584.55.

"I think that a lot of people just don't realize that you should call around," Smith said.

For one cholesterol medicine, the lowest cash price was $18.00. That was at a Walmart Neighborhood Market. But at Walgreens, you would have to pay $455.99. 

The woman Channel 3 spoke with on the phone was shocked at the cost herself and even double-checked to make sure the quote was correct. That's a cash savings of nearly $498.

For a popular insulin pen, Walgreens charged just under $700, which is roughly $70 to $150 more than the other five pharmacies we called.

Smith says that's why people should call around before they buy medicine. He says medicine has always been expensive. Buyers just didn't notice it as much before because they would pay a co-pay. But with high deductible plans, consumers are paying more for medicine than before.

"Don't just assume because you go pick up a prescription that that is what it is,” Smith warned. “You've got to ask for help."

Smith says it's not very common, but there is a chance you could get medicine at a cash price cheaper than it cost even with your insurance.

So you should always ask and always call multiple pharmacies.