Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Bitterness at Low Drug Prices

Local pharmacists say Wal-Mart generic drug program is overrated

By Alexis Bacharach Daily News staff writer

Joanne Westberg Milot knows her customers by name. She knows their spouses, children and grandchildren.

When people drop by the pharmacy at Marketime Drugs in Moscow to ask about prescriptions or over-the-counter medication, pharmacist Westberg Milot or one of her technicians is with them in no time.

"I think customer service is really important," she said. "You won't get that quality of care at the big retail chains."

It’s the reason she didn’t worry last month when Wal-Mart announced it was expanding its $4 generic drug program to stores in Idaho and Washington.
In September, Wal-Mart executives announced plans for a prescription drug program as part of an overall campaign to make health care more affordable. The program was launched on a trial basis, offering more than 300 generic prescription medications for $4 at select stores in Florida. Within a month, Wal-Mart had expanded the program to stores in 27 states.

Westberg Milot characterized the program as a marketing scheme aimed at the health care industry's most vulnerable consumers — senior citizens and people who don't have prescription coverage or don't have insurance at all.

"If you look at the medications they're offering in this program, it's a pretty limited list," she said. "I think, in a sense, it's much ado about nothing. ... Look at all the publicity they've gotten from it. You couldn't buy that kind of PR."
Westberg Milot agrees something needs to be done to control prices on prescription drugs. She does not agree, however, that Wal-Mart's drug program is the solution.
The list of drugs that is offered is only 300 at this point of time, however, when I looked at the list I saw a lot of the major drugs that I see in the field. Maybe someone cannot get every drug they need, but if they can get one or two drugs a month at $4.00 that will save them money. Every little bit helps.

The use of the word scheme makes it sounds like Wal-Mart is trying to pull a fast-one on people. Also to make it sounds like WalMart's employees are robots who have no ability to help people or know people. It makes it sound like bigger always means that you will not get service.

It just feels like this article written from a bitter point of view. Rather than taking a point of view that WalMart is at least doing something to help, people instead call it a scheme and that it is not the right solution to drug prices. Funny, I thought that lowering the prices of drugs would be a good solution to high drug prices.

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April E. Coggins said...

I also noticed the very negative slant in the article. It's too bad the reporter didn't ask a few customers. I have had some dreadful service from small pharmacies. Overbilling, not filing insurance claims and unsupervised pharmacy interns are the three that come to my mind. From personal experience, my mother had fourteen-some prescriptions, month in and month out. The difference in billing and service was remarkable when she was served by a company that had a professional system in place.

Matthew said...

In his role as a close and intimate advisor to Wal-Mart, Terry Nelson, president of Crosslink Strategy and a top consultant to Wal-Mart, created the racist TV ad attacking Tennessee U.S. Senate Candidate Harold Ford, Jr. Wal-Mart’s front group, Working Families for Wal-Mart, launched a smear website, PaidCritics.com, to attack hard-working families, and directs Wal-Mart’s recently launched voter education program which targets any Democrat who calls on Wal-Mart to be a responsible corporation.

You wouldn't happen to be a paid critic yourself, would you?

April E. Coggins said...

Hey Matthew, do you lie often?

Scotty said...

I can't say I am a paid critic. In fact I was just pointing out a local article about Walmarts drug program and how the article was slanted.

You should read my post and responded to that rather than ranting about something unrelated. Are you getting paid by the union to be anti-walmart?


Matthew said...

You have banners of both of those groups on your sidebar.

Scotty said...

I am a contributer to this blog I don't control anything but my post, but having a link to someone elses site does not mean we are paid by them. Knowing Tom he has those links because he believes in their message.

Matthew said...

Merry Christmas.

To be clear (which I wasn't), my question about your being paid was more rhetorical than anything. Glad to hear you at least were giving your own opinion - albeit it a selfish, short-sighted one - instead of being a paid shill for the largest corporation in America. I do maintain that the post had a definite point, that WM is _not_ engaged in a "scheme," and that the post and this site are tainted by their association with WM's PR firm.

That said, it does seem like WM is "trying to pull a fast one." From walmartwatch: "The generic prescriptions on the list of 314 are made up of 143 compounds in varying doses and therapies, according to the Wal-Mart press release." For example, says recordnet, "The National Community Pharmacists Association, a trade organization based in Alexandria, Va., and representing the interests of 25,000 independent community pharmacies, . . . noted there are 12 versions of the antibiotic amoxicillin on the list."

Time will tell . . . .

Matthew said...

This is an off-topic post.

Readers of this site should know that the site owners log your location. There is a Bravenet hit counter installed. From the Bravenet site, the information being logged about your visits include: "pageviews, referring URL, place of origin, site entry and exit pages, length of stay on a particular page, as well as other information." I'd put 10 to 1 that the "other information" is your IP address, which is what allows the site to know your "place of origin."

Select "view source" under the "View" menu in your browser, scroll to the bottom, and you'll see the code.

Barenjager said...

I hope there's more to you than just personal attacks. Since you spoke up about Wal Mart's generic drug program, I'll return service.

It is my OPINION that pharmacists are on their way out and soon there will be as many of them as there are typewriter repairmen. There is very little that a pharmacist does that can't be done by computer and automated dispensing machinery. It is only the human resistance to change that has kept it from happening already.

Wal Mart is just ahead of the curve on the issue. You might just as well complain (and with a great deal more justfication) that mail order pharmacies operated by HMOs and other insurers are harming the local pharmacist. It is my bet that the mail order pharmacy business is what drove Wal Mart to offer its low cost drugs, not competition from the corner drug store or some evile scheme to put them out of business.

Next time, please think your way ALL the way through an issue before launching personal attacks.

Paul E. Zimmerman said...


Westberg Milot agrees something needs to be done to control prices on prescription drugs. She does not agree, however, that Wal-Mart's drug program is the solution

Could be bad wording or an unfinished thought, but "price controls" in this quote stink of "price floors" - keep drugs prices higher at a minimum so that Walmart can't deliver this benefit to consumers.

My mom is taking quite a few medications these days, and some of her generics are probably on this list. She goes through Group Health Cooperative right now, which charges her $15 for a 1 month supply of her generics. This is going to be a HUGE benefit to her, and to multitudes of those in her situation.

The naysayers are, as always, complaining for the sake of their posturing.