Monday, May 19, 2008

Wal-Mart Pharmacy: Friend or Foe?

tidbits that tantalizeThey May be Little, But They're Pricey...

The battle rages on. On the one hand, you have the traditionalists. These are the folks who believe in good old-fashioned values; and good old-fashioned, local companies. They see Wal-Mart as the archenemy, the Big Box Bully who sweeps into town and destroys local businesses without a second thought. On the other hand, you have the progressives. They look to the future of discounted prices in every aisle, bigger and better toys sold at ever-lower prices. They see local store closings as a sign of progress.

The new battleground is medicine.

Wal-Mart jumped into the health care fray in 2006, when it began offering prescriptions for certain generic drugs for $4. Now, they're expanding the program to offer 90-day prescriptions of certain generics for only $10. They're also joining the trend of opening in-store health clinics that offer basic health care services.

Is this good news?

Well, that's a debate that will not soon be settled. But, the need for cost controls in our health care system is without question. It's a big issue in the coming presidential election, and a look at some basic numbers reveals why.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) tracked the price of consumer medications from 2000 to 2007. The average price increase in the brand name drugs it studied was 48.6%, or 5.8% per year. For generic medications, the average increase in price was just 7%, or 1% per year. For comparison, the Consumer Price Index, which is the standard measure of inflation, rose by 19.9%, or 2.6% per year.

So, love them or hate them, Wal-Mart is addressing a real community need. If you favor a different solution, then do a little studying and go to the polls this fall. Vote for the candidate whose health care plan makes the most sense.

In the meantime, stay healthy - it's the best option to keep health care costs low.

To read more about the Wal-Mart pharmacy plan, see this from Reuters. To read more about making exercise a routine part of your life, see this from familydoctor.org.

2 Comments:

Blogger PharmacistMike said...

I do see one issue with Walmart and their $4 prescriptions. They are able to take a loss at the pharmacy counter, knowing that they will make it up in other front-end sales. Unfortunately, other pharmacies are not able to do this. At Walmart, you may spend $4 on the prescription but then also pick up a set of snow tires. At Walgreen's the front end is not large enough to make up the loss on the prescription. Is $4 really even fair? Let's assume that of the $4, $2 is for the drug and $2 is for the labor involved in processing the prescription. At say $50/hr for a pharmacist the $2 is basically paying for only 2.4 minutes of their time. Is that really fair? Do you want your pharmacist trying to dispense you your correct medication and answer your questions in 2.4 minutes? Another potential problem is pharmacy shopping. A patient will get their generic drugs at Walmart but their other medications at Walgreens, where their insurance is accepted. While benefiting the pocketbook this may put the patient at risk for adverse drug reactions down the road since neither pharmacy has their complete medication profile.

2:33 PM  
Blogger tim said...

Mike:

Thanks for stopping by and for the thoughtful comment.

I think the point you make about potential drug interactions is significant, and something people need to pay real attention to.

Thanks for the cost calculations as well - quite interesting.

Thanks again,

tim

5:47 PM  

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