Wal-Mart expands generic drug rollout

Target follows suit, while other retail chains say their drug prices already are competitive.

By Tyler Chin — Posted Nov. 6, 2006

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced Oct. 19 that it has accelerated the rollout of its discount generics program, as well as increasing the number of drugs covered.

As of that date, the big-box retailer began selling 314 generic prescriptions covering 143 separate medications in 15 states for $4 each.

The program was introduced Sept. 21 in Tampa, Fla., and included 291 generics covering 124 separate medications in various dosages and forms.

The retailer intended to expand the program statewide in Florida and then the rest of the country in 2007. However, consumer demand led the company to expand the number of covered drugs and accelerate the rollout to all of Florida on Oct. 5, and other states two weeks later.

The Florida Medical Assn. said it was pleased to see Wal-Mart lower the prices of generics but that it also was concerned that not every Floridian will be able to take advantage of the program because of access-to-care issues that prevent patients from seeing a doctor to get the prescriptions they need.

To participate in Wal-Mart's program, which charges the same price to the uninsured, customers should first "check with their physician to see if generic medication is a good alternative to what they may be taking," said David Tovar, a company spokesman. Wal-Mart says that its goal is to help make health care more affordable and accessible to customers and employees, but some experts say it's more about attracting customers.

CVS Corp. and Walgreen Co. aren't changing their prices, because most of the generics covered by Wal-Mart's program are older drugs that cost their customers an average of $5 in co-pays, they said.

Target Corp., which previously matched Wal-Mart's price in Florida, will follow suit in those states where it competes with that company. In addition to Florida, Wal-Mart's low-priced generic drugs are available in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and Vermont.

Meanwhile, Midwest superstore chain Meijer Stores on Oct. 23 announced that it would charge nothing to fill prescriptions for seven generic oral antibiotics.

Separately, Medco Health Solutions Inc., one of the country's largest pharmacy benefit managers, announced Oct. 13 that it will sell a 90-day supply of 2,000 generic prescriptions covering 818 different generics for a $10 co-pay per prescription via mail order. The program will be available through health plans, which will market it to small and mid-size businesses.

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