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Low-cost drugs

A Feb. 11 Star Tribune article offers suggestions to readers for finding low-cost prescription drugs, and mentions the Wal-Mart announcement that it will sell a month’s worth of certain generic prescriptions for $4.

In an MPR story this week, the reporter focuses on Minn. House committee hearings on the possible repeal or alteration of a law that prohibits retailers from selling products below cost, a law that may effect whether Wal-Mart and Target will be able to continue selling some generics at such low prices.

The Strib article begins with an outline of the problem of varying drug pricing, then lists suggestions for readers to keep their costs low, such as substituting generic for name-brand, buying in bulk, splitting pills, and comparing prices between retailers, which is where the Wal-Mar program is mentioned:

Its program includes 331 drugs, including 14 of the top 20 most-prescribed medications. Other retailers have matched Wal-Mart’s program, or at least lowered their prices.

The MPR article explores the issue from a distinctly Minnesota perspective by explaining a law that prohibits such pricing, tells that the legislature is reviewing the law and considering allowing pharmacies to sell drugs below cost, and explains the conflict with small retailers, using the example of a St. Paul drug store whose owner believes he will lose customers, threatening his business, if the state allows big box retailers to out-compete on drug pricing.

“Ninety percent of our money comes from delivering health care services through a retail community pharmacy,? Hoeschen says. “Under that business arrangement or setup, there’s no way I can produce a $4 prescription.?

Other potential problems are explained in the story by a U of MN pharmacy professor, like the danger that “$4 plans . . . could drive up the price of drugs in the long run.?

“As generic manufacturers have pressure to lower their price and their margins get thinner, fewer companies are going to enter the market for generics. . . As you have fewer companies in the market for generics, you’ll see the generic prices actually go up.?

In both articles, the reporter gives pertinent information that is helpful to readers in a story style that is accessible.



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