Friday, October 06, 2006

Wal-Mart takes drug program statewide today

Wal-Mart takes drug program statewide today

By Associated Press

ORLANDO — Wal-Mart announced Thursday that it will sell more than 300 generic prescription drugs at a sharply reduced price in all of Florida starting today, nearly four months earlier than expected.

The company is already selling 291 generic medications at $4 for a month's supply at its stores, as well as Neighborhood Market and Sam's Club pharmacies, in the Tampa Bay area.

That announcement came two weeks ago, and Wal-Mart executives said at the time they would look to expand the program statewide in January, and nationwide after that.

But Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executives said customer demand and requests from Florida officials led them to expand the program throughout the state. The list of drugs has also been expanded to 314 medicines.

"If there's one thing we've learned in the past two weeks, it's that Wal-Mart can play a unique role in responding to the needs of our customers who have struggled for too long with the high costs of prescription medications," said Bill Simon, executive vice president of the professional services division. "This introduces competition to an area where there has not been enough of it."

Simon said the source of the company's prescription drugs would not change. Some are domestically produced, and some are imported from abroad. He did not name specifically where the drugs come from.

"We don't do anything different than anyone else does," Simon said.

He said that within 10 days of the Sept. 21 launch of the program in the Tampa Bay area, Wal-Mart filled 36,000 new prescriptions. He said the company hopes to expand the program beyond Florida "to as many states as possible" in the weeks ahead.

Gov. Jeb Bush challenged the company to roll out the program across the state, and Wal-Mart responded, Simon said. Bush praised Wal-Mart at the news conference, trumpeting the good the retailer is doing and downplaying the critics that demonize the company.

"This is a disruptive idea that is going to bring benefits to millions across our state. When you're big it's easy to be a target I guess," Bush said.

Consumers could save an average of 20 percent, and up to 90 percent on some prescriptions, with Wal-Mart's decision to sell the drugs — which treat conditions ranging from high-blood pressure to allergies — at such low cost.

Wal-Mart shares fell $1.11, or 2.2 percent, to $48.44 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

By Associated Press

""Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."" by Dr. Seuss.

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