Wal-Mart rolls out $4 prescription drugs
October 19, 2006
Carson City Wal-Mart shoppers can buy $4 generic prescription drugs along with their discounted merchandise and groceries after the big box retailer rolled out the new low price Thursday in 14 states, including Nevada.
Local pharmacists criticized the move as another scheme to undercut competitors. One state expert said Wal-Mart’s pricing could help uninsured Nevadans, but those with prescription drug plans probably won’t save that much.
“About 90 to 95 percent of the prescriptions filled in our state are covered by a third party, an insurer,” said Larry Pinson, executive secretary of the Nevada State Board of Pharmacy. “The co-pays for most generics are $5 or less, so it won’t have any impact on those people.”
He said uninsured Nevadans who pay cash for prescriptions could be helped. That’s providing they use, or can switch to, one of the 143 generic drugs on Wal-Mart’s list. About 18 percent of Nevadans were uninsured from 2003-2005, according to the Census Bureau.
Carson City resident Phyllis Frank, 65, won’t be switching to the Wal-Mart pharmacy. She’s on Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program, and pays about $15 a month for her six different prescriptions.
“I’d have to send someone to go get it for me,” she said, after an afternoon of bingo at the Carson City Senior Citizens Center. “Medcare (Pharmacy) also delivers. They have a $3 fee, but that’s good in bad weather. It’s convenient.”
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Carson City pharmacist Mike Hautekeet said Wal-Mart’s announcement is as damaging to his business as customers buying their prescription drugs from Canada. But in this case, Wal-Mart is five minutes away from Mike’s Pharmacy.
“It will really impact our business because you don’t make any money on prescriptions for that price,” he said. “It’s just to get the people in the store and then they’ll buy other stuff. We can’t compete with that.”
Another local pharmacist said this is one method Wal-Mart is known to use to drive away competition.
“Hopefully my customers won’t go down the street,” said pharmacist Kirk Wentworth, owner of Medcare Pharmacy.
Wal-Mart’s list includes high-use drugs, such as prenatal vitamins, Amoxicillin and Ibuprofen, available in up to 30-day doses. Wal-Mart touts the list as including 314 generic drug prescriptions, but there’s actually fewer than 150 different medicines available for the $4 price.
For example, 12 different versions of the antibiotic Amoxicillin are on the list. Only one choice, Lovastatin, is offered for high cholesterol. The National Community Pharmacists Association criticized that medicine as “the oldest one with the worst profile for side effects.”
A spokeswoman for Wal-Mart said the company will continue to offer these generic drug discounts indefinitely.
“One of the things Wal-Mart is really good at is we can cut a lot of waste out of the system,” said Amy Hill, director of public affairs for the West. “Using our principles, we can offer prescription drugs at this amount and we’re still making money.”
The program launched in 235 Florida pharmacies on Oct. 6. Wal-Mart originally planned to expand it into as many states as possible beginning in 2007, but customer demand led the company to accelerate the launch. Hill said laws prohibit the expansion of the program in some states.
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.
Could you save money on your generic prescription drugs?
Lisinopril, a cardiac drug, 30-day supply $4
Amoxicillin, an antibiotic, 10-day supply $4
Propranolol, a cardiac drug, 30-day supply $4
Glyburide, a diabetes drug, 30-day supply $4
Lisinopril, 30-day supply $8.34
Amoxicillin, 10-day $9.62
Propranolol, 30-day supply $12.50
Glyburide, 30-day supply $15.95
Insurance often pays $5-$10
To find out if your prescription drugs are available at Wal-Mart visit http://www.walmartfacts.com. and access the list under the “Economic Benefits.”
Sources: Wal-Mart, Mike’s Pharmacy, Medcare Pharmacy