How does WalMart manage those $4 prescriptions?

Deep into the health care debate and the headlines about big Pharma cutting a deal with the white house I heard another commercial about WalMart prescriptions being so cheap. $4? How the hell can they do that? If they can why can’t everybody?

They only sell certain drugs for that price. The list is here:

I suspect that the $4 ones are the ones that have the lowest wholesale cost. Even then they probably take a loss on a lot of them but they probably figure that getting more people into the store gets them more sales of other items, including other prescriptions that aren’t on the list.

Only cheap generic drugs are available for $4.

I buy from Target based on a similar program. If I don’t drag my fat ass in there for another 30 days, they discount me another two bucks.

It’s apparent that Target knows that most of its prescription customers will spend extra time in the store. I hope for them that most of those people are feeding quarters into the video games, but (DON’T tell them this!) them customers hoping for a $.25 spiff will burn it first thing tomorrow, leaving OT Players like me sitting on what our insane CEOs are sitting on the penny slots at Atlantic City.

As a data point, I believe that my prescription of erythromycin (an antibiotic) cost less than two bucks, a couple of months ago. That’s the price before insurance paid for it. Some drugs are incredibly cheap. Usually these are the older ones, but they’re still effective.

On the other hand, when I had MRSA, I took several different antibiotics, and the one that finally did the trick cost over $1700 for 34 pills, before insurance kicked in. The doctor had to jump through a few hoops with the insurance company in order to get the insurance to pay for it. I can understand the insurance company wanting to make sure that the doctor really had tried other drugs before going to this extremely expensive new drug. However, I feel that paying for the drug is definitely cheaper than losing my arm.


By the time a drug patent expires and generics are allowed, the R&D costs have been amortized and the only cost is the cost of manufacture. R&D is wildly expensive in the drug industry (or so we are to believe), what with all the clinical trials and hoops of government regulation to jump through.

A regional grocery store chain, Giant, has been offering FREE generic antibiotics for a couple of months as a promotion.

Marketing for a drug costs more than R&D but drug companies don’t like to admit that. All that free stuff for doctors adds up fast.

It’s not just Wal Mart that can do it. As dropzone mentioned, Target does a similar thing. My local grocery store, Giant Eagle, only has 223 locations and they sell $4-for-30-day and $10-for-90-day prescription.

Seems like the only stores that don’t do this are actual drug stores. At least not around here.

Yeah, Publix grocery offers a number of free antibiotics. It’s a real boon when you’re both sick and broke.

The claim that they’re not selling at a loss is somewhat misleading … Delivery channel costs even for the cheapest generics raises the store cost above that $4 price point (prorated costs of the storefront, transportation costs from their warehouses, packaging costs, and labor costs for the store employees–especially the pharm techs and pharmacists). It’s another kind of loss leader for them–they come close to breaking even, at least, and it brings people into the store. If they just came in and filled their cheap generics there, that would make Wal-Mart very sad; but of course, they not only fill their other prescriptions there (of course they have other prescriptions!), but also often end up buying things from the other parts of the store while they’re waiting for their pills to get counted out & packaged.

Relatively cheap advertising, basically.

I really appreciate you folks educating me. SDMB, very cool. :cool:
I cringe when I hear those commercials for odd maladies and the long list of side effects at the end.

Walmart pharmacy tech checking in. Not counting overhead like our payroll and such, the drugs on the $4 list are all cheap. Our markup on them isn’t ridiculous or anything, but most of those are around 5 dollars for a 100 count bottle, some are cheaper, some are slightly more expensive. On the low end, $2 or so, and I haven’t looked at cost on all of them to give a good idea on the high-end prices. But as far as average wholesale price, we are not losing money on most, if not all of them.

This seems more believable. WalMart is not in the charity business (advertisements and tax writeoffs guised as corporation donations notwithstanding). If they can’t make some coin selling something, I have a very hard time believing they’d sell it.

It’s not unheard of to lose money on certain items you sell. 7-11 type places have cheap gas so you will buy their inflated stuff inside. Of course now with pay at the pump that may not happen as much.

R&D can be very expensive, but we’re talking about generic drugs here - some of them were discovered decades ago.

Drug stores are starting to do this, too. They have discount cards and membership programs where you can get the same generic drugs for similar prices as what they’re doing at Wal-Mart and Target.

Why can Wal-Mart do this? They’re making money on it, and they are counting on you staying in the store and buying other stuff after you fill the prescription. Their first order of business is just getting you into the store. And they are so big that they can order tons of the drug and get bulk discounts, which might not work for a smaller company.

I’ve noticed that my generics change color and shape occasionally. This implies that the pharmacy (in my case the large chain Fred Meyer) have the ability to buy generics from the cheapest suppliers and drive hard bargains. Small drug stores just don’t havethe negotiating ability.

Unless they’re part of a larger franchise chain or member of a co-operative. Still owner-operators and still the small guy at the end of the day.

Many people have several prescriptions. They do not want to drive around cheap shopping. It you get a couple for 4 bucks, others won’t be cheap, but will get them all at once. Convenience counts.