Archive for Friday, October 27, 2006

Wal-Mart brings $4 prescription drugs to Kansas

October 27, 2006


When Wal-Mart in Lawrence starts selling Gary Watson's prescription drugs at $4 a pop, he may say goodbye to the friendly face at the neighborhood pharmacy.

"I'm sure they call people by their first name just the same," Watson said of Wal-Mart pharmacists. "I don't think it would be impersonal just because it's Wal-Mart."

It's not that Watson has anything against mom-and-pop pharmacies, he said. But saving $6 or more every time he fills a prescription just might be the bait that lures him to the retail giant's smiley face.

Wal-Mart announced Thursday that it would bring its $4-a-month drug plan to Kansas and 11 other states, selling 314 generic drugs at bargain-basement prices. The plan is now in effect at the Lawrence Wal-Mart, 3300 Iowa, and at Wal-Mart pharmacies statewide.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart rolled out the program in Florida three weeks ago and last week added 14 states to the list. The low-priced drugs are now available in 2,507 Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and Neighborhood Market stores.

The company said in a news release it accelerated the launch of the low-priced prescriptions because of customer demand.

Tiffany Jamieson fills a prescription at Wal-Mart in Wichita. Wal-Mart offers hundreds of generic drugs to customers in Kansas for $4 per prescription. If Kansans have a prescription drug that's not on the $4 list and it's too expensive or not covered by insurance, they can get a free Kansas Drug Card that will provide a discount. The card is accepted at 56,000 pharmacies nationwide, including Wal-Mart.

Tiffany Jamieson fills a prescription at Wal-Mart in Wichita. Wal-Mart offers hundreds of generic drugs to customers in Kansas for $4 per prescription. If Kansans have a prescription drug that's not on the $4 list and it's too expensive or not covered by insurance, they can get a free Kansas Drug Card that will provide a discount. The card is accepted at 56,000 pharmacies nationwide, including Wal-Mart.

Analysts said the program will help Wal-Mart by bringing in more customers to shop in other store departments and extend its reach in another segment of the retail industry: the drugstore business.

Union-backed critics of Wal-Mart have also accused the company of using the low-priced drugs to divert attention from its own employee health insurance plan, which they say does not offer adequate coverage.

States added Thursday were Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Dakota and Virginia.

States already with the program were Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and Vermont.

But pharmacists around the country apparently thought the industry as a whole wouldn't be affected much by Wal-Mart's cheap drug prices. An ongoing survey on the industry Web site showed Thursday that more than half of about 1,000 respondents thought the drug prices were just a ploy to get more foot traffic into Wal-Mart stores.

Some pharmacists in Lawrence seemed to agree.

"I think a significant amount of this stuff is pretty gimmicky," said Mark Smith, a pharmacist at Orchards Drug, 1410 Kasold Drive. "I think people are going to have to find out for themselves what kind of benefit that really is."

Smith and others said they thought the price breaks people could find at Wal-Mart may not be enough to lead them away from their regular pharmacies.

"Our clientele is seriously interested in a level of service," Smith said - a level of service only found at local pharmacies familiar with the people they serve.

Generics in the discount plan

¢ Dozens of cardiac drugs, including Nadolol, also called Corgard; Digitek and Captopril. ¢ The asthma medication Albuterol. ¢ Parkinson's medications, including Benztropine, also called Cogentin. ¢ Glaucoma medication, including Pilocarpine. ¢ Dozens of other antibiotics, diabetes medications, antidepressants and vitamins.

Timothy Bredehoft, a pharmacist at Medical Arts Pharmacy, 346 Maine, said that pharmacists more and more are becoming an essential link in the health care chain - something clients will be less and less willing to tamper with.

"It's not going to be about price anymore," Bredehoft said. "It's about how a pharmacist can improve an entire health care system."

But Bredehoft admitted that price certainly mattered.

Watson said it was simply a matter of savings. If Wal-Mart only carried one generic brand that he needed, he might stick with the pharmacist he uses now.

But if people need three or four brands they can get at Wal-Mart on the cheap, well ...

"It would be quite a different thing at that point," Watson said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


oldgoof 11 years, 5 months ago

The pharmacists quoted are correct. Wal-marts quoted number of 314 generic drugs deceptively over-implies a vast range of generics, when the actual number of drugs to be provided is far fewer. Differing dosages of the same drugs are counting multiple times. . And besides, I would trust Canada long before I trust Arkansas.

lunacydetector 11 years, 5 months ago

this is great and all however, if you are enrolled in an HMO they most likely will require you to also be enrolled in their prescription drug plan BEFORE they give you health insurance. this eliminates people in HMO's from taking advantage of the cheap drugs at wally world, because you still have to pay the HMO for their prescription plan. what a scam by the insurance companies, but what can you do? if you still buy the cheap drugs, you still have to pay the HMO for their prescription drug plan so they still make a ton of money off of you.

i wonder what sandy praeger will do about this? i bet, absolutely nothing.

geppetto 11 years, 5 months ago

I wonder if like everything else these are MADE IN CHINA

SettingTheRecordStraight 11 years, 5 months ago

I'll continue to shop at Walmart. This only makes it more sweet.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 5 months ago

"I don't think it would be impersonal just because it's Wal-Mart."

The policy regarding your prescriptions will be made in Bentonville, so, in fact, this will make it more impersonal.

Once those local pharmicists are run out of business, you'll get what Wal-Mart wants to sell you, and only what they want to sell you, for whatever price they set.

Funny how people who would scream about "socialized" medicine don't mind having their healthcare policy decided by the largest corporation in the world.

Kat Christian 11 years, 5 months ago

I agree STRS - if other places want to be so greedy and charge high prices at least someone out there is making it easier for folks to get what they need at reasonable prices. Store want people to purchase their goods then make it affordable according to the wages they pay and the rest of the town. OR raise the wages so people can afford the high prices. Simple as that!

packrat 11 years, 5 months ago

If the generic medicine at Walmart costs less than to would for me to use my insurance, I'll use it. I heard that Target is planning a similar program and I suspect Kroger/Dillions will follow.

Competition makes prices go down. That is good for consumers.

MrMister 11 years, 5 months ago

With my insurance plan I can get a 90 day supply of generics for $5. The Wally World plan only helps those without insurance ( a very large number of working poor). The great thing is that the rest of the pharmacies will have to stop selling generics with a 2-300% markup to make up for the more expensive drugs that they have to wright off or sell at a loss due to insurance contracts.

concernedvoter 11 years, 5 months ago

Mr.Mister: "With my insurance plan I can get a 90 day supply of generics for $5."

You have a great plan......not all are as good. For instance, mine is $10 for a 30 day supply on generics. With three generic prescriptions, the WalMart deal would save me $216/year.

Shelby 11 years, 5 months ago

but anyway, I think you're dismissing the notion that quality of life might be lessened merely by virtue of there being less money in one's pocket...joe the pharmacist can have great conversations and be happy about it, but poorer and hungrier and therefore less happy on a different level than anything social or communal had he been looking out for his bank account more. This would imply, I think, that there's a balance at play here, and maybe that it's not as black & white as we assume it is.

Or something. This was a boring question anyway.

Shelby 11 years, 5 months ago

Tony, you seem to imply that going into business without the intention of making money is more noble and virtuous a venture than going into business WITH the intention of making money. Care to elaborate?

zzgoeb 11 years, 5 months ago

Merrill gives us facts and figures....Sigmund gives us bile! Without union's, WORKING people have 60 hour weeks, no benefits, no days off, no worker's comp. Merrill obviously works "white collar", drives and expensive import, definitely DOESN'T shop Walmart, but probably owns stock with them.

As for the free-range, organically grown kumquats, they keep our local economy strong, as the grower lives, shops, pays taxes and PROSPERS. With Walmart, Sam's ruthless, greedy prodigy join Merrill on pricy, overseas vacations, ad nauseum. As for the cute Commie reference, was Joe McCarthy your hero as a youth?

Buy, think and act locally, to help the world be a better place.

ps-Merrill are you behind the Kline attack ads?

Janet Lowther 11 years, 5 months ago

I've said it before: Wal-Mart has as least as good negotiating leverage as the Canadian Health plan. . .

You can bet that they have things arranged so that they are still making money on the prescriptions.

For years they have had the lowest prices for non-insurance prescriptions be they generic or still under patent.

Shelby 11 years, 5 months ago

no, but I'm not about to evaluate the quality of someone else's life. This is a philosophical question, really, and now we're getting way off-topic here...sorry to have done that. I don't disagree with you at all, tony.

zzgoeb 11 years, 5 months ago

Ooopss!!! In my previous comment, switch Merrill for apologies!!!

kristyj 11 years, 5 months ago

I'm waiting for the day when Wal-Mart opens in-store doctor's offices for $10 a visit. They might as well start offering a health-club, day-care, tutoring and piano lessons too. Why not condos? You'd hardly ever have to leave the store. For all that I'm not a huge fan of Wal-Mart, they know how to make money.

staff04 11 years, 5 months ago

Shelby- Just my opinion. I don't trust Wal-Mart. Without seeing a list of the 314 drugs they are offering I can't qualify my opinion, but I wasn't trying to in my post.

I would say that I tend to agree with the pharmacists that were interviewed. I think it is a cynical effort to get people to come to the store. I also think it is designed to boost their sale of name-brand drugs. I can't tell you the last time I was prescribed more than one drug and at least ONE of them wasn't a non-generic. To my knowledge, Wal-Mart is not planning on offering anything less than industry standard pricing on those.

staff04 11 years, 5 months ago

"Posted by kristyj (anonymous) on October 27, 2006 at 10:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm waiting for the day when Wal-Mart opens in-store doctor's offices for $10 a visit. They might as well start offering a health-club, day-care, tutoring and piano lessons too. Why not condos? You'd hardly ever have to leave the store. For all that I'm not a huge fan of Wal-Mart, they know how to make money."

They tried to go into the banking business (commercial lending) but the federal government said no. Too much conflict of interest if a competitor wanted a loan from them.

On topic, and purely opinion, I think this is getting more hype than it is worth. Sure, this is going to help Joe Schmoe who needs a generic prescription for penicillin every year after his 4th of July party, but I don't see this being helpful to most of those who are in need of assistance.

Shelby 11 years, 5 months ago

staff04, i don't understand why it wouldn't be helpful to most....'splain

zzgoeb 11 years, 5 months ago

ok, last time...I got the names switched twice in one guys can figure it out...up too late for the Halloween party...must have been the kumquat wine...;p

kristyj 11 years, 5 months ago

Informed- yep, i've had prescriptions filled at doctor's office pharmacies and it's awfully convenient. It just seems weird that I could do all that and get an oil change, do my recycling, pick up some dinner and shop for Christmas presents all in the same stop. Almost too convenient. :)

cassieP 11 years, 5 months ago

But were these companies these making billions of dollars? I am from Arkansas, NW Ark at that, and I can tell you that the gap between the rich and the poor is growing and growing. When do we stop believing that corportations are altruistic?

Confrontation 11 years, 5 months ago

I know they should give better health benefits, but how many other people making these same wages are getting health insurance? Most people in that wage group can't afford their portion of the insurance premium. WalMart does have a ton of money, but why should they be expected to provide better benefits if Target, Sears, Conoco, and other places are not doing the same thing? Try working for a non-profit, where the emphasis in on the "non."

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 5 months ago

call walmart evil if you wish but the problem is not walmart but the entire business world not just one company that was started by a very humble man that only had good intentions when he opened his first store.

cassieP 11 years, 5 months ago

What about corporate responsibilty? We need to demand that large corporations are held accountable to more than just their board members. Remember, Wal Mart can offer drugs at lower costs because they can make up the loss elsewhere--say by not paying their employees enough or by not improving a health care plan for employees. It is true that Wal Mart does not offer their employees adequate health coverage and often tax payers, through public assistance programs, are the ones footing the bill for Wal Mart's employee health care. It is also true that Wal Mart is the highest grossing corporation in the country after GMC, and who knows how long GMC will be at the top. Don't we have the right to demand that Wal Mart look beyond there bottom line and begin to give back? As consumers we have a choice as well. I haven't shopped at Wal Mart since 1996, and while this choice is often inconvienent and sometime more expensive, I choose to make myself accountable to more than money. What is wrong with asking Wal Mart to do the same?

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 5 months ago

I have worked for more than one company that does not pay well and health care plans where a joke and could only be afforded by the uppe manegement.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 5 months ago

yes cassie they were. kids name is cassie or at least her nickname good name.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 5 months ago

heck no but not because of the money or health care.

estespark 11 years, 5 months ago

How many neighborhood pharmacies are there in town?

Shelby 11 years, 5 months ago

this was in the works for awhile, Agnostick (re: same day as lawsuit) mulitiple states were named yesterday.

zzgoeb 11 years, 5 months ago

The good news it that this will serve the un-insured...the bad news is it still the Evil Empire...the Walton family!!! When will local governments try to protect small business from this juggernaut?

I won't shop there anyway, but hope it may bring some sense of realistic pricing from the mega-corps producing the drugs...either way the average, over-taxed working stiff will have to pay.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 5 months ago

It could be Wal-Mart raised prices on goods throughout the store to cover any potential loss on drugs.

If our city commission continues to deny them who knows what other MAYBE good deal might they bring to Kansas in order to spruce up their greedy image.

"The more Wal Marts the fewer choices the more under paid and unemployed american workers"

Richard Heckler 11 years, 5 months ago

Wal-Mart alone is China's eighth-largest trading partner. It accounts for over 10 percent of our annual trade deficit with China, with over 70 percent of Wal-Mart products made in China.

If Wal-Mart's size is a problem, its policies are a threat. Wal-Mart is the model "low-road" corporation in the global economy. Its efficiency is celebrated, but its exploitation is caustic. The average pay of a Wal-Mart employee is $8.23 per hour, or an average yearly income of $14,000-not enough to lift a family out of poverty. Wal-Mart is infamous for requiring workers to work overtime off the books. It's been cited for locking workers in plants overnight. The company has been hauled into court for discriminating against female employees. And it is viciously, rabidly anti-union, crushing any attempt by its workers to organize to gain a fair share of the profits they help generate.

But Wal-Mart doesn't merely follow the low road; it drives its suppliers and its competitors into the same race. When Wal-Mart comes to town, it purposefully wipes out small mom-and-pop stores, leaving small towns looking like they were hit by a neutron bomb-buildings intact, but people gone. Wal-Mart also undercuts big competitors that have unions and pay decent wages and benefits. They must slash wages, cut back on benefits or hang it up.

Given its size in the United States, Wal-Mart is a major force in driving wages down and forcing cutbacks in benefits. It is a central reason why we have an economy in which CEO salaries are up, stocks are up, but wages are down.

Sigmund 11 years, 5 months ago

WalMart stock is not rising, two income households are the norm, your xenophobia of the Chinese is frightening, the overtime lawsuit was settled with WalMart paying for their misconduct, unions are far more notorious and corrupt than WalMart and workers in many industries have reject them in recent history. in the real world businesses come and go (Kmart, Woolworths, US Steel, etc) as more efficient competitors offer better combinations of service, price, products, and nationwide wages and incomes are NOT down. Don't like WalMart, fine don't shop there.

None of this has anything to do with WalMart offering dramatic real savings in the real world for the most popular prescription drugs that will mean more discretionary income for sick people who really need them. Merrill is cold hearted enough to demand these sick people pay higher costs for needed drugs just so his PLC Kommissioner grocers buddies can charge higher prices for free-range fair-trade locally organically grown kumquats. Absolutely disgusting.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.