According to a press release located on Wal-Mart’s website the mega-retailer unveiled phase two of its $4.00 generic prescription drugs program on Thursday. The program has many medications available at this price for up to a one month supply at generally prescribed levels; this means that unusually large prescriptions may not be covered.
Wal-Mart has long claimed that it improves quality of life for lower income people by lower prices and the prescription program appears to be Wal-Mart’s most recent attempt to beautify its image. The beleaguered retailer has received a storm of criticism due to the company’s devastating effect on small businesses located near the companies retail outlets. Wal-Mart has also come under fire for its employment practices and has been accused of paying its employees poorly and not offering benefits such as health care insurance coverage.
The prescription drugs being added to the list will cover a range of conditions including: glaucoma, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, acne, birth control, fertility, and fungal infections. The additions will bring the total number of medication products available through the program to just over 360.
The fertility and birth control medications included in the program, generic versions of ortho-tricyclene among others, will be priced at $9.00. All other medications included in the program are priced at $4.00. Despite this difference the retailer points out that $9.00 is a much lower cost for these medications than a woman could obtain anywhere else without health insurance.
Wal-mart takes great pride in the program claiming that it helps improve quality of life for low income people by providing a way for them to obtain potentially life saving medications at a price that they can afford. The company claims that after the phase two expansion the program will cover medications for 95% of the conditions medications are prescribed for.
The retailer also points out a somewhat unexpected side effect of the program, which is the speed at which generic medications are now making it to the market at a reduced price. The company notes several medications whose costs have dropped dramatically. One in particular, an anti-fungal medication called Lamisil was priced on average at $337.00 one month prior to the announcement; it’s generic counterpart is now available for $4.00 under the program.
Wal-mart did not comment on what effect this will have on pharmaceutical companies. It remains to be seen whether pharmaceutical manufacturers will be able to comply with Wal-Mart’s demand for “always low prices” and stay afloat. Wal-Mart has been criticized in the past for insisting on low price items from its suppliers, often to the suppliers’ detriment as many have found it difficult to meet the retailers demands and stay in business.