Drug dispensing fees at the pharmacy counter can range from around $4 to almost $14, a big discrepancy for anyone who isn't covered through insurance.

A study from the University of B.C. this week found that one in 10 Canadians can't afford to take their prescription drugs as directed.

Dispensing fees can really jack up the price at the cash register, so Steele on Your Side shopped around to find the lowest fee.

Retired pastor Ralph Lyons, who takes a lot of daily pills, wonders why the dispensing fees are so inconsistent in B.C.

"When I've made a check on some of the pharmacies around -- some 22 of them -- they're all over the place in terms of what their cost is," he said.

We followed Lyons as he visited Surrey-area pharmacies to get his prescriptions filled.

London Drugs was the first stop. At $9.60 per prescription, it has one of the lowest dispensing fees in the Lower Mainland.

The pharmacy uses a robotic system to count out pills for prescriptions. The robot frees up pharmacists to talk to patients like Lyons about their drug history, dosages, and the medications being prescribed -- all services that are paid for through dispensing fees.

"We do know that our fees are very, very competitive," said John Tse, London Drugs Pharmacy Vice President. "We do monitor the marketplace, but at the same time make sure that our service is top-notch."

The next stop is Costco, where the pharmacy blows away the competition with the lowest dispensing fees by far – at $4.49 a prescription.

And you don't need to be a member to have your prescription filled at the members-only store.

Costco's fee is less than half of what London Drugs, Save-On Foods, Zellers, Walmart and Safeway charge – and three times cheaper than some Pharmasave locations, which charges as much as $13.99 at some outlets.

Here's a look at the dispensing fees at common retail pharmacies:

  • Costco - $4.49
  • London drugs - $9.60
  • Save-On-Foods - $10.00
  • Zellers - $10.00
  • Walmart - $10.00
  • Safeway - $11.00
  • Pharmasave - up to $13.99 (price varies by store)

Lyons said he was surprised by the large discrepancy, and says more consumers should pay attention at the pharmacy counter.

"If people can save even say $10 on a prescription, if they've got three or four of them, that's four times -- $40 in one shot," he said.

There's no ceiling on dispensing fees and pharmacies can charge whatever they see fit. While most chains charge a consistent amount, the fee can vary from store to store, so call around first if you want to save yourself some money.

The B.C. government will only reimburse up to $10 per prescription, but that ceiling is going up to $10.50 in April.

Follow Lyons and Lynda Steele as they get the scoop on dispensing fees tonight on CTV News…