Steamboat Springs Local pharmacists think loyal customers will continue to get drugs at their stores, despite the low-cost prescription drug program Wal-Mart launched this week.
On Tuesday, Wal-Mart's $4 generic prescription drug plan rolled out in 11 more states, including Colorado. All of Wal-Mart's 3,810 U.S. pharmacies, including the one in Steamboat Springs, now are participating in the program.
Although Wal-Mart claims the program is good for customers, communities and the healthcare system, workers at smaller pharmacies are concerned. They say although it may mean lower prices for some people, the $4 program is purely a marketing tactic by Wal-Mart meant to improve the retail behemoth's image.
Lyon's Corner Drug owner Nancy Clapsaddle reacted with relief and shock after reviewing a list of the 331 drugs Wal-Mart is selling for $4.
She said most of the generic drugs on the list had been on the market for a while and were therefore cheaper drugs. She said Lyon's prices remain competitive with the new Wal-Mart prices.
"In the longterm, this is not the way to deal with the healthcare crisis at all," said David Bonfiglio, pharmacist and owner of Bonfiglio Drug in Oak Creek. "Whether it will work or backfire on them will have to be seen."
Wal-Mart started the discount program in Florida in September, with plans to expand it in January. But Wal-Mart said customer demand led to an accelerated rollout. Wal-Mart said it negotiated with suppliers to lower costs, and that the company is not losing money on the drug program.
According to Wal-Mart, drugs on the $4 list represent 25 percent of prescriptions dispensed in its pharmacies. The popular antibiotic amoxicillin is included in the $4 program.
A 30-day supply of the drug at Lyon's Corner Drug currently goes for $5.97, but that might change now, Clapsaddle said.
"The ones that I did price were around $5.97 to $8, which is still a good price, and we give good service," said staff pharmacist Tahnee Miller.
A couple of the drugs on the list did stick out, Miller said. For example, Wal-Mart is offering Fluoxetine, an antidepressant substitute for Prozac, for $4. At Lyon's, the current price is $20.
"We're just starting to learn about this," Clapsaddle said. "We will always work with customers on pricing. We don't want to lose anyone"
She said the price battle is reminiscent of 15 years ago, when Wal-Mart entered the Steamboat market.
"I fought that tooth and nail," said Clapsaddle, who has owned the store with her husband, Tom, for 35 years. "It's a miracle we're still alive."
Bonfiglio said it would be impossible for him to lower his prices to match Wal-Mart's.
"I am in the ballpark with Wal-Mart most of the time," Bonfiglio said. "I don't beat them very often, but we do every once in a while."
Both Bonfiglio and Clap-
saddle encouraged people to call their store with questions about drug prices.
- To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org