Wal-Mart Continues Expansion of Generic Drug Discount Program
Wal-Mart Stores on Thursday announced that it will begin selling eight additional generic drugs for $4 per 30-day prescription and several family-planning drugs for $9, USA Today reports (Appleby, USA Today, 9/28).
The added medications include treatments for glaucoma, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, fungal infections and acne (Albright, St. Petersburg Times, 9/28).
In addition, Wal-Mart will offer generic versions of the birth control drugs Ortho Cyclen and Ortho Tri-Cyclen and a fertility drug for $9 per 30-day supply.
The discount drug program, which started in September 2006, now will cover 361 prescriptions representing different formulations of 157 generic drugs (Saul, New York Times, 9/28). The new additions add about 24 prescriptions to the program (Bernstein, Long Island Newsday, 9/28).
According to Wal-Mart Chief Operating Officer Bill Simon, the program has saved customers and the U.S. health care system $610 million (New York Times, 9/28).
Paul London, an economist working with the company, said drug makers "are going to have to change the way they approach the pricing of brand-name drugs as generics become more available" (USA Today, 9/28).
Other retail chains, including Kmart, Publix and Target, have advertised similar programs (St. Petersburg Times, 9/28).
Target officials on Thursday said the company would match Wal-Mart's discounts in all prescriptions categories, the Newark Star-Ledger reports (May, Newark Star-Ledger, 9/28). The company said that the $4 program accounts for about 40% of prescription drug sales at its pharmacies and that the program is profitable (St. Petersburg Times, 9/28).
Simon said the first year of the program "substantially exceeded our expectations," adding, "We will continue to improve and expand this prescription drug program" (Dorschner, Miami Herald, 9/28).
According to Simon, the U.S. health care system is "incredibly inefficient," and Wal-Mart's "core competency is removing inefficiency from a supply chain" (Long Island Newsday, 9/28).
However, the National Community Pharmacists Association has called the discounts a publicity stunt, saying they apply only to a small portion of the 8,700 FDA-approved generic drugs available (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/28).
According to Dan Mendelson of the research firm Avalere Health, the $4 drug program is "more sizzle than steak" because private insurers in the Medicare program already offer low-cost or no-cost generic drugs. Mendelson added that Wal-Mart's program generates good publicity and helps uninsured customers, but "it's not health reform" (USA Today, 9/28).