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Archive for Friday, October 13, 2006

Pharmacy programs go generic

October 13, 2006

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— Consumers are suddenly getting a break on the cost of generic drugs as discount retailers and some prescription benefit managers start programs that provide a host of popular medications at very low costs.

In the last month, Wal-Mart stores Inc. and Target Corp. began programs at pharmacies in their Florida stores, including Wal-Mart's Sam's Club, offering dozens of generic drugs for $4. In May, Kmart Holding Corp.'s 1,100 stores began offering generics for $15 for a 90-day supply.

On Thursday, Medco Health Solutions, one of the largest U.S. prescription benefit managers, announced a plan targeting consumers indirectly through small- and medium-sized businesses struggling to offer employees prescription coverage.

Medco, based in Franklin Lakes, will offer its "Generics First" plan through partner health insurers for which it manages prescription claims and shipments from its mail-order pharmacies. The plan kicks off this week through the first insurer to sign up, Nationwide Life Insurance Co., said John Driscoll, Medco's group president for new business development.

Medco's insurance partners will market the plan through their agents to companies with up to about 500 workers.

Driscoll said employers will get Generics First at about half the monthly premium cost for a traditional prescription plan, and their employees will get generic drugs for as little as $10 for a 90-day supply via mail order.

Medco and its competitors have long been pushing generic drugs as a way for employers to quickly reduce costs. On average, generic drugs cost about 70 percent less than their chemically equivalent, brand-name counterparts.

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