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NEW YORK - It's spreading like a virus. Joining a trend started by Wal-Mart, and then Target, and Kmart, now major retailers Meijer, BJ's Wholesale Club, Giant Eagle, and Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. all said this week they are also introducing prescription drug programs that to some degree will allow customers to get needed medications for less money.
This week, for example, all 176 of the in-store pharmacies operated by Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer, Inc. has started offering free prescriptions for seven generic oral antibiotics. The antibiotics covered -- Amoxicillin, Cephalexin, SMZ-TMP, Ciprofloxacin, Penicillin VK, Ampicillin, and Erythrimycin -- account for about 70 percent of the generic antibiotic prescriptions that Meijer fills for children, the chain said.
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"Any customer, regardless of insurance or copay, can take their prescription to any Meijer pharmacy and receive their designated antibiotic free of charge," Meijer said in a statement.
Yesterday, Giant Eagle, based in Pittsburgh, started offering customers prescriptions for the generic versions of the same seven antibiotics at no cost, along with four cough-and-cold treatments, Entex LA, Robitussin AC, Histussin, and Phenergan.
Last week, Natick, Mass.-based BJ's Wholesale Club pharmacies started offering $4 prescriptions for 30-day supplies of select generic drugs. "I think we're at the start of a trend to come up with ways of making health care more affordable to the public," BJ's v.p. of pharmacy operations Chris Cella told the Cherry Hill, N.J. Courier-Post. "It's making everybody think outside the box."
The company has instituted the program at its locations in New York, Delaware, Florida, and New Jersey.Despite the fact that BJ's is a membership-based business, shoppers don't have to be members to use its full-service pharmacies.
Under Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans' generic prescription drug program, which goes into effect today in all of the Northeast regional grocer's stores, shoppers can buy a 90-day supply of prescription drugs for $11.99, choosing from a list of almost 200 maintenance drugs, including multiple strengths.
"We have compiled a list of maintenance drugs which are frequently prescribed for our customers," said Wegmans' director of managed care John Carlo in a statement. "This a great starting point, but it's likely the list will evolve over time with possibly more drugs or dosages added."
Wegmans' program differs from those of other retailers in its focus on maintenance drugs.
"Prescriptions taken for chronic conditions over long periods of time are of special concern from a cost perspective," explained Carlo. "In addition, a 90-day supply is more convenient for customers and more cost-effective for us to fill."