PHARMACY

Wal-Mart’s $4 generic program expanded again

BY Mike Troy

BENTONVILLE, Ark. Wal-Mart’s $4 generic drug program was expanded on Monday to include new elements such as a 90-day, $10 option, several new women’s medicines and 1,000 nonprescription medicines priced at $4 or less.

This is the third time the program has been expanded since it was introduced in the fall of 2006. Since then, Wal-Mart contends, it has saved customers more than $1.1 billion and up to 95 percent of the prescriptions written in the majority of therapeutic categories now are included in the $4 prescription program. In addition, customers now can purchase a 90-day supply of 350 medicines for $10, a change Wal-Mart said gives customers an additional choice and saves them time and money.

Other changes include the addition of medicines such as a generic version of the osteoporosis drug Fosamax for $9 for a 30-day supply or $24 for a 90-day supply. In addition, medications to treat breast cancer (tamoxifen), menopause and hormone deficiency were added to the list of $9 medicines, a pricing tier that was added to the program in September 2007.

The other notable change to the program involved the inclusion of branded and private-label nonprescription drugs. More than 1,000 products, roughly one-third of the OTC drugs available at Wal-Mart and Neighborhood Market stores are available for $4.

“We’re succeeding in our efforts to deliver simple, affordable, quality pharmacy solutions for families struggling with the rising costs of health care,” said John Agwunobi, president of Wal-Mart’s health and wellness division.

Wal-Mart has promoted the $4 program extensively since its introduction via television commercials, print ads and signage throughout its stores to encourage customers to visit the pharmacy. In addition, the $4 program is frequently held up by Wal-Mart senior executives as an example of the retailer’s marketing slogan adopted last summer to help customers save money so they can live better.

Click here for the full list of discounted drugs.

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Hormone deemed effective in male birth-control pill

BY Drew Buono

TORRANCE, Calif. According to published reports, one of the two government-funded research centers in the U.S. for male contraceptives has discovered hormone pills that block sperm production in men and has found them to be safe and reversible.

The hormone combination that proved most successful halts testosterone production in the testicles, but fakes the body into believing that testosterone levels are the same, according to the study. The progestin, typically a female hormone, speeds the process and improves the effectiveness of the drug, research shows. The hormones can be taken in a pill or injection form.

As with female birth control, the male contraceptives don’t prevent sexually transmitted disease. But they have proven as effective as female pills in preventing pregnancy, according to the study.

The next goal is to find pharmaceutical companies that want to conduct final development of the drug, but so far companies have been unwillingly to take part because of the regulatory requirement involved in manufacturing a contraceptive.

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Federal appeals court lets Washington state Plan B ruling stand

BY Drew Buono

LOS ANGELES A federal appeals court on Thursday left in place a lower court’s ruling that allowed Washington state pharmacists to refuse to sell Duramed’s emergency contraceptive pill Plan B on religious grounds, according to Reuters.

A federal judge in Seattle suspended state rules that required pharmacies to dispense the drug and other emergency contraceptives that prevent fertilized eggs from implanting, which some people believe is the same as abortion.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton found that the state rules force pharmacists into an unconstitutional choice between their religious beliefs and their work.

State officials and several women had asked the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to suspend the judge’s preliminary injunction, which bars them from enforcing the law, while they appeal his ruling.

In a split decision, the appeals court denied that request, finding that the state and the women did not show that they would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction stayed in place pending the appeal.

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