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Prescription Drug Price Wars
Posted Wednesday, February 28, 2007 ; 06:50 PM
Updated Thursday, March 1, 2007 ; 12:11 AM
Three months ago, Wal-Mart started selling select generic prescription drugs for $4, and now other pharmacy chains follow the trend.
CLARKSBURG -- Prescription drugs are big expense for many individuals and families.
Pharmacies such as Wal-Mart and Target have been trying to help these customers cut their costs by offering certain generic drugs at a discounted price.
When Wal-Mart first offered $4 drugs last November, many pharmacies like Target and K-Mart decided to match those prices.
Other pharmacies like CVS decided to ignore the trend, and there was concern that this so-called "price war" would put the success of smaller pharmacies in jeopardy.
Pharmacists from major chains like Target and those at local pharmacies have differing opinions on whether price should be the most important factor for consumers.
Whether it is the most important factor for consumers, it has been an issue that pharmacies have needed to consider this year.
Wal-Mart started the trend with a list of 331 generic drugs offered for $4 in 30-day supplies. Target Pharmacy matched those prices and offers 10 percent off of every 10 prescriptions with a Target card.
"I've had people where I'm checking them out, and they realize their prescriptions are $12 that month rather than $50, they get really excited," said Tami Vincent, executive pharmacist of Target Pharmacy in Morgantown. "So it makes us happy too that we can help out."
But for local pharmacies such as Byard Mercer in Clarksburg, creating a cheap generic drug program is difficult. Byard Mercer delivers prescriptions to long term care facilities as many as 50 miles away every day.
With the cost of packaging and delivery, pharmacist and part-owner of Byard Mercer Jim Rogers said its not possible to offer cheaper drugs.
And he said that while those drugs on Wal-Mart and Target's list are cheaper, they are a small sampling, and they are outdated.
"Today's medications are more up to date," Rogers said. "They're better delivery as far as a drug dissolving in a system, better blood level, less side effects than the current older medications thats what generally makes up any one's generic list."
This brings up the question of whether switching to a generic drug is safe.
"Its usually very safe to switch," Vincent said. "You may need to be monitored a little more closely for the first couple of weeks."
But Rogers said this has placed more responsibility on the consumer.
"The consumer is going to have to be better educated in our society about what generic drugs are," Rogers said.
Rogers and Vincent did agree on one major factor. Both said it is important to stick with one pharmacist that you know and trust.
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