Friday, October 20, 2006

Update on Wal-Mart generics

I seem to be getting a lot of thru-traffic looking for the list of generics included in Wal-Mart's $4 deal, so here's an update: Wal-Mart's expanding the list of drugs included and expanding the states where it will be offering the deal. Snip from WaPo:
The company's plan covers a month's supply of 314 prescription drugs. That number is made up of 143 drugs in a variety of dosages and solid or liquid forms. The program was launched in the Tampa area two months ago, as part of what the company called an effort to save working Americans money on health care.

The program was expanded to the rest of Florida two weeks ago, and yesterday it was extended to Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and Vermont.
Health-care experts said any price competition is welcome, but noted that generics are less of a burden to consumers than higher-priced brand-name drugs that remain under patent. Critics, including rival non-chain pharmacies, said the plan covers only a fraction of a prescription drug market that includes about 8,700 FDA-approved generics. "This is a public relations stunt meant to drive foot traffic. Most people will find their prescriptions do not fall under the $4 plan," said Charlie Sewell, senior vice president of government affairs at the National Community Pharmacists Association, which represents about 24,000 non-chain pharmacies.

Here's a link to an updated list of covered drugs, which now includes lovastatin.

I'm still not impressed, and I think it's downright goofy to tout this as some kind of market-based solution to the problem of access to health care. This is a teeny slice of the whole list of generic drugs out there. And let's don't forget that you still need to see a doctor to get these drugs, so you're still on your own for the most expensive part of the transaction.

That said, I think it's brilliant marketing on Wal-Mart's part. It'll get gazillions of people through the doors, at least until they find out their drugs aren't on the list, and it buys some badly-needed good press for Wal-Mart. I'm not a rabid WM-hater, but even if this included one of the drugs I'm on, it wouldn't get me to drive all the way out to Wal-Mart when Walgreen's is just few minutes away.

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