Health News Review

Some drug stores in the US are now giving away statin drugs for cholesterol.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on a chain in its area doing so:

“Retail grocery store competition is fierce, and Wegmans is trying to get an edge by giving away – yes, free – a generic version of what was the world’s best-selling drug, the cholesterol medicine Lipitor.”

We’ve read that the Midwestern retail chain Meijer announced that it would provide free generic versions of Pfizer’s cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor (atorvastatin) to patients with valid prescriptions in all of its 199 pharmacies.”

But for a broader perspective on why this is happening, you could read Managed Care Magazine’s article,”Free Statins Disrupt Pharmacy Benefit Plans.” Excerpts:

“One pharmacy expert says that in its generic form, Lipitor has become a market commodity, no different from grains of rice or sugar or white sand on a beach. He adds that developments in the statin class might foreshadow what’s in store for many other classes.

The implication is that it could be a sea change for health plans and pharmacy benefit managers.

“The acquisition cost of generics has become so low that pharmacies can essentially afford to give them away, and the Wegmans supermarket pharmacy is doing that,” says Adam J. Fein, PhD, head of Pembroke Consulting and of the pharma blog Drug Channels.

“Pharmacies are cutting their prices to compete in a flat market. The number of prescriptions is growing less than 1 percent per year, which means the only way for pharmacies to grow is to steal market share or acquire a competitor. This was kicked off six years ago by Walmart,” says Fein.

“The new development is that generic drugs are becoming consumer products, subject to the same rules of competition and discounting that you see with any consumer product.”

You still need a prescription to get the free statins from the pharmacies that are giving them away.

Just a few years ago I remember discussions of putting statins in the water supply.  Are we inching closer to the faucet?

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