Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is expanding its national $4 generic
prescription drug program by about 10 percent, adding drugs for
some new conditions.
The world's largest retailer said Thursday it has added drugs
covering glaucoma, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder, fungal infections and acne.
Two prescription birth control drugs and one fertility drug were
added at $9, reflecting a higher cost that the company said could
not be brought down further.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer launched the $4 generics
program late last year as it pushed a variety of health and
environmental initiatives to counter political pressure led by
union groups over its labor practices, including health insurance.
"We have taken what we do best, working with suppliers, driving
costs out of the supply chain and passing those savings to our
customers. Now we're applying that to health care," chief
operating officer Bill Simon said on a conference call for
reporters and analysts.
The increase adds about 30 prescriptions, made up of 14 drugs in
various doses, to a list of 331 prescriptions and 143 drug
compounds sold under the first phase introduced last year.
Critics including the National Community Pharmacists
Association, which represents non-chain pharmacies that compete
with Wal-Mart, have called the discounts a publicity stunt that
covers only a fraction of the 8,700 generic prescription drugs
approved by the Federal Drug Administration.
Analysts have said the main benefit for Wal-Mart was in drawing
more shoppers into its stores who may come for prescriptions and
then make purchases in other departments.
Wal-Mart has made the $4 plan, which covers 30 days worth of
generic drugs, a central plank of its public relations effort and
says the program has cut over $610 million in health care costs
since it started. That figure is the difference between the old
price it charged for the generics and the new price, times the
number of prescriptions sold, Simon said.
Simon said Wal-Mart is not selling any of the $4 prescriptions
at a loss. The generics are profitable, he said, without providing
Simon said the $4 generics under the first phase account for
just under 40 percent of all prescriptions filled at Wal-Mart
pharmacies. He projected that rate will climb to well over 40
percent with the new drugs.
Shares of Wal-Mart Stores rose 31 cents to close at $43.61
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)