Pharmacists: We've had Wal-Mart prices
Local stores say their prices already match Wal-Mart's new offer.
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
Owners of several local pharmacies are shrugging off Wal-Mart's plan to bring $4 generic drugs to Ohio.
"It's not that big of a threat," said John Petracci, co-owner of Bel-Park and Mill Creek pharmacies in Youngstown and North Lima Pharmacy.
Other pharmacy owners agreed, citing these reasons:
* Wal-Mart's list of $4 prescriptions is limited. The 314 prescriptions include medications in different dosages or varieties, reducing the number of different medications to 143.
* Some of the medications already can be bought for about the same price.
* The local owners are confident that their customers like the service they receive.
Wal-Mart announced today that it was extending its generic drug plan to 12 more states, making 27 states in all. Ohio was one of the states added today, but Pennsylvania wasn't.
The low-priced drugs are available in 2,507 Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and Neighborhood Market stores. Wal-Mart has stores in Boardman, Austintown, Bazetta, Salem and East Liverpool. Sam's Club has stores in Boardman and Warren.
The program offers 30-day supplies of listed prescriptions for $4, regardless of whether the customer has insurance. Wal-Mart started the program in Florida in September and has been expanding it.
Wal-Mart said it is using its business model to drive costs out of the system, so it can offer lower prices.
Petracci said the program really is about getting free publicity.
"I think it's a ploy. We've been doing this for years. Are they saying that they have been gouging people for years?" he asked.
Some generic drugs have been around long enough and are in such demand, that they are have become inexpensive, local pharmacists said.
Petracci said his pharmacies don't advertise low-cost generics because other generics are relatively new and are more expensive. He said doesn't want customers to come in expecting to receive a low price and be disappointed.
Dan Wearsch, owner of The Medicine Shoppe in Youngstown, said he thinks that will happen to Wal-Mart. Customers will show up for $4 prescriptions, get angry when they are charged more and return to local pharmacies, he said.
Rick Berry, owner of The Medicine Shoppe pharmacies in Boardman and Austintown, said low prices on some generics are not new. He said he advertised some prescriptions as low as $4 four years ago.
Now, people with the Medicare drug card can receive medications for less than $4, and most senior citizens have the card, he said.
Wearsch noted that insurance providers also set purchase prices of about $4 for some prescriptions. At least 90 percent of the prescription business is tied to insurance, he said.
Customer service is key
All of the pharmacy owners said they think that customer service will continue to attract customers.
Wearsch said he thinks customers will continue to come to his store because they can park close, receive prescriptions quickly and spend time talking to the pharmacist.
"It really comes down to service," he said.