I love the Wal-mart program


Category : Medical Rants


I received an email from a web site called Walmart Watch yesterday.  They were trying to convince me that the Walmart generic drug program was questionable.  They referred me to this newspaper article – Wal-Mart : Cheap meds real reform.

In 2006, Wal-Mart began filling prescriptions for certain drugs for $ 4 for up to a 30-day prescription, a program the company touts as cutting through the complexities of the pharmaceutical industry. Customers can buy more than 350 prescription drugs that way.

“I think our $ 4 drug program has been the only true healthcare reform in the United States, in that it definitely changed the landscape in terms of health-care delivery,” Joe Quinn, Wal-Mart’s senior director of health-care policy, told Arkansas lawmakers gathered in Rogers.

Quinn, who was a policy director in then-Gov. Mike Huckabee’s administration before joining Wal-Mart, was speaking to members of the House and Senate committees on Public Health, Welfare and Labor.

Now I believe this is a slight exaggeration, but only slight.  As I often tell my residents, interns and students, great drugs cannot help patients who cannot afford those drugs.  Voltaire once said, "The perfect is the enemy of the good."  When caring for patients, good trumps nothing.

We use and know the Wal-mart drug list.  Patients great our use of this drugs enthusiastically.  Wal-mart has made generics acceptable to large numbers of patients.

The Wal-mart Watch website has this diatribe – WAL-MART SAYS ITS $4 GENERICS ARE “TRUE HEALTH CARE REFORM”

Rep. Pennartz, for her part, expressed concerns for independent pharmacists across the country, who would face serious difficulties matching Wal-Mart’s low price. Independent businesses are certainly struggling to keep up with Wal-Mart’s pricing, but Pennartz’s concerns reveal a larger point: Wal-Mart’s $4 generics are aren’t an answer to America’s health care problems, they’re a way for Wal-Mart to make more money. Whether that means luring in Medicaid recipients who need cheaper drugs, getting employees to use the company pharmacies for their prescriptions or driving out competing pharmacies, Wal-Mart is only looking out for one thing: itself.

Duh?  Apparently this web site and its writers hate Wal-Mart so much that they have substitute hatred for logic.  Of course Wal-Mart makes money from this program.  This is a classic loss leader.  They improve their brand recognition and get customers into their store.  This is smart business.

As a physicians, my only concern is for the patients.  This program allows our poorer patients to afford medications.  When someone has hypertension and I can help them control their BP for $4 or $8 per month, the patient wins, and thus society wins (decreased unreimbursed hospitalizations.) 

I am not a fan of Wal-Mart (although I sometimes shop there) but they are doing a good thing.  Those who criticize this program are clearly philosophically against capitalism.  I love the program because it really helps many patients.


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Comments (4)

I’ve never likesd Walmart’s treatment of their employees, but I have to admit, I like their generic drug policy. They are also starting to buy local produce for their supermarkets, which is fantastic. They turned around their policy on the morning after pill as well.

Gradually, they are heading in the right direction. OF course, their reasons are all financial, nothing altruistic about the place. But then again, that’s America…

We love it as well. Where we are the prices are also matched by Hyvee and Target. It’s been a godsend to control a hypertensive, hyperlipidemic, diabetic with GERD on 5 meds for $20 a month (e.g., metformin, lisinopril, bisoprolol/HCTZ, simvastatin, & prilosec) when 5-10 years ago it would have been $300-400. We keep the current printouts from all 3 in each patient care area. They even have $9 oral contraceptives now.

As a fellow physician, I have to say that I am concerned for patients but that doesn’t stop me from considering the bigger picture – i.e. Walmart’s terrible treatment of their employees, relying on Medicaid to fulfill their healthcare needs. In the end we are all paying for Walmart’s lower prices, whether we shop there or not I guess. At this point in time, though Walmart seems to in the beginning stages of change, I would encourage people to shop at Target or Hyvee and to watch the movie “The High Cost of Low Prices” before they return to Walmart.

I shop at Walmart often (only because it is all our small town has) I have health reasons that require me to be on contaceptives. It use to cost me $34 dollars a month, now it costs me $9…capitalism is the only way to protect us all from inflated prices. I believe lower prices-better health!

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