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David Baxter

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Wal-Mart to Test Price Cuts on Range of Generic Drugs
September 21, 2006
By MICHAEL BARBARO, New York Times

Wal-Mart, the nation?s largest retailer, will test a program to sell generic prescription drugs to its workers and customers at sharply reduced prices, according to people briefed on the plans.

The giant discount chain, which has used its size to knock down the costs of toys, clothing and groceries, will sell generic versions of about 300 widely prescribed drugs for as low as $4 for a standard prescription, these people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose details of the new program. On average, generic drugs cost between $10 and $30 for a 30-day prescription.

The company, which is frequently criticized for its employee health benefits, is expected to announce the program today. A company spokeswoman declined comment.

Wal-Mart will test the lower prices first in the Tampa, Fla., area and, depending on consumer response, may expand the program around the state and the country, these people said.

The experiment appears to mark the first time that Wal-Mart has used its unrivaled influence in the American economy to lower the cost of health care for its customers.

In the past year, the company has introduced several programs to improve its benefits for workers, like extending insurance coverage to the children of part-time workers and starting a benefit plan with monthly premiums as low as $11.

Still, critics complain that at Wal-Mart health insurance is out of reach for many of its 1.3 million employees in the United States, forcing thousands of them to turn to state-sponsored programs or forgo health coverage altogether.

Several states even considered legislation that would force the chain to increase its spending on health care but only one such bill, in Maryland, became law. The law has since been struck down by a judge and its future is in doubt.

For Wal-Mart, the lower generic drug prices could blunt criticism of its health care coverage and prove a boon to business. Wal-Mart?s chief executive, H. Lee Scott Jr., has identified the chain?s pharmacy business as an area that needs improvement, and $4 generic drugs could turn the chain into a destination for those seeking the best prices on prescriptions.

It is unclear exactly how Wal-Mart obtained the lower prices. The chain has at times sold products like toys at a loss to entice consumers. But given its size it is possible the company has negotiated lower prices with health care providers and drug companies, industry experts said.

The new generic drug program is expected to be announced this morning at a Wal-Mart store in Florida, with senior company executives and elected leaders in attendance.
 

Halo

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Suddenly I have an urge to move to Florida and become a Walmart Greeter :D

Welcome to Walmart, How May I Help You Today?

$4 prescriptions.....wouldn't that be awesome!!
 

Retired

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While generic drugs offer a price alternative, an informed decision should be made with one's doctor as to whether a generic alternative is the best choice for the particular medication needed.

Generics are the subject of ongoing debate as to whether the generics are absorbed at the same rate as the brand name drug and whether the effectivenss is the same.

As in all medical issues, one's decision should be based on benefits vs risks.

When the cost benefits outweigh the potential difference between the brand name drug and the generic alternative, the generic alternative may be a better choice; however there may be situations where there are other considerations that overide concerns about cost.
 

Halo

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Wow to be honest I never knew that. Thanks TSOW. I just figured that there wasn't much difference and it was kind of like brand name v. no name. Same ingredients, same product, different package. All the same. I didn't realized that there might actually be a difference between the two.

Okay, then for now I think that I will stick with my job and keep Walmart on the back burner :)
 

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Nancy,

Generic manufacturers produce the same chemical compounds as the brand name manufacturers once the patent protection runs out for the brand name manufacturer.

As you know the brand name manufacturers are the ones who do the research and development, and when the patent protection expires, the generic manufacturers copy the formula.

The difference can be in the source of raw materials, the method of production and the use of inert ingredients such as binders which may affect absorption in the body. The term used to describe this action is bio-availability.

This is not to say generic drugs are necessarily inferior, but they may not act in exactly the same way.

In many cases this difference, if there is any, is not significant; however in some medical conditions some physicians have noticed differences.

All I am saying is that one should discuss the question with their doctor, to determine if there are any concerns in their particular case.
 

Halo

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TSOW

Thank you for that information. I find it absolutely fascinating that there may be a difference between the two in some situations. I would have never known that. I figured the most important difference was price. I was recently given a generic medication for one of mine that previously was given the brand name for and the only difference I noticed (tg) was the price.

Thanks again for the wealth of info TSOW :)
 

David Baxter

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TSOW is absolutely correct. First, I have known several clients who have simply not reacted well to generics even where the brand name versions are very effective. In one case, the client was aware of this and always specified "no generics" and was given a generic by a new pharmacist - she realized it when she had a downturn and checked the bottle she had been given.

Second, a few years back in Ottawa a large-scale study showed that brand name Luvox was the most effective available medication for OCD - but for many patients the generic fluvoxamine was significantly less effective.That said, I think it's worth trying generics where they are available - if they work for you, you can save a great deal of money over time; if not, you can always revert.
 

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TSOW is absolutely correct

How I love hearing that :dimples: ;)

the client was aware of this and always specified "no generics" and was given a generic by a new pharmacist

Depending on the jurisdiction, the laws governing whether the pharmacist can substitute without the doctor's approval can vary.

For someone who has reason to prefer brand name medications, if the doctor's prescription indicates the brand name of the drug along with the doctor's hand written addendum "No Substitution" the pharmacist should respect it.

For example, in Quebec, pharmacists are not obligated to respect a pre printed request for "no substitution"..it must be hand written.
 

David Baxter

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I think that in Ontario the pharmacist is required by law (OHIP regulation) to dispense a generic unless specifically instructed by the physician or the patient/customer NOT to do so.
 

ThatLady

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This will be interesting to watch. Wal-Mart could certainly use a face-washing, as their treatment of employees has undergone a good deal of criticism over the years. I refuse to shop there because I feel they misuse their employees and are solely focussed on the bottom line.
 

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