Who’s Got the Cheapest OTC Meds? The Answer Probably Won’t Surprise You

Side view of medicine shelves in grocery store
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The other day while I was spiraling down an internet rabbit hole, I came across an article talking about how Amazon quietly released an entire line of generic, over-the-counter medicines way back in August 2017.


You mean to tell me that for the past six months, I’ve been putting on real pants, driving to the pharmacy, dragging myself inside and actually encountering people, all while Amazon could have been delivering sweet relief to my sick, sniffly self in bed?

How did I not know about this?!

To be fair, it was a silent rollout.

But man, that would have been great information to have during the worst of this flu season when people (and their germs) were running to drugstores en masse rather than staying home and relying on virtual doctor visits.

Still, though the convenience of staying in bed and in a germ-free environment while a delivery driver hauls a box full of cold and flu essentials to my front door appeals to me on several levels, I couldn’t stop wondering if I’d be overpaying for Amazon’s Basic Care products.

How do they compare price-wise to my good ol’ neighborhood drugstore versions of the same products?

Well, after digging through the Amazon, CVS and Walgreens mobile apps, I was able to compare prices from a few of the products most of us have used this winter.

Over-the-Counter Medicine: CVS vs. Walgreens vs. Amazon

Here’s how the three retailers’ generic brand over-the-counter medications stack up.

Ibuprofen — 200 Mg Coated Tablets

Amazon Basic Care: $4.00 (200 count) — 2 cents/tablet

CVS Health: $10.99 (200 count) — 5.5 cents/tablet

Walgreens: $11.99 (200 count) — 6 cents/tablet

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl Equivalent) — 25 Mg Tablets

Amazon Basic Care: $6.09 (400 count — 1.5 cents/tablet)

CVS Health: $14.34 (365 count — 4 cents/tablet)

Walgreens: $19.99 (365 count — 5.5 cents/tablet)

Calcium Carbonate (Tums Equivalent) — 750 Mg Chewable Tablets

Amazon Basic Care: $3.82 (200 count — 2 cents/tablet)

CVS Health: $7.29 (160 count — 4.6 cents/tablet)

Walgreens: $4.49 (96 count — 4.7 cents/tablet)

Nighttime Cold Relief (NyQuil Equivalent)

Amazon Basic Care: $8.86 (12-ounce bottle — 74 cents/ounce)

CVS Health: $7.99 (8-ounce bottle — $1.00/ounce)

Walgreens: $6.29 (8-ounce bottle — 79 cents/ounce)

Triple Antibiotic Ointment

Amazon Basic Care: $7.30 (2-ounce tube)

CVS Health: $11.99 (2-ounce tube)

Walgreens: $11.49 (2-ounce tube)

Will Shopping Habits Change?

OK, Amazon, we see you with your low prices.

As a hardcore fan of the online retail giant (is “giant” even a large enough word to describe the operation anymore?), and an even bigger fan of saving money, I’ll definitely be Prime-ing some of these products when it’s time for a restock.

The tricky part?

Several of Amazon’s Basic Care products come as “Add On” items, so they will ship only with an already existing order of $25 or more. A few of the products are “pantry” items and could be added to your regular Amazon Pantry box.

If you’re in serious need of cold relief now, it might not be worth it to wait until you’ve filled a pantry box or a totaled out a $25 Prime order — and it certainly wouldn’t be cost-effective if you ordered extra items specifically to reach the shipping threshold. In that case, it would probably be wiser to make a quick trip to the drugstore.

If you’re doing a routine restock, however, or simply beefing up your first-aid kit, the Amazon Basic Care line has some pretty unbeatable prices.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.