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Pharmacist pushback against insurer drugs-by-mail plan

The question may be asked whether this will kill small pharmacies, but that train left the station long ago.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

Almost every month, I get a letter or a call from my insurer asking if I would like to sign up for a plan to "save money" by having them mail me the drugs I need.

I hang up out of loyalty to my pharmacist. If my prescription is running out he warns me. He has even called my doctor to get emergency refills. He warns of side-effects. The personal service is valuable.

He can't compete on price. Most pharmacists can't.

But WalMart can.

(The picture, from CBS, is of my actual pharmacist, Ira Katz of Little Five Points Pharmacy. You also saw his counter in a classic Good Eats episode. I think it was Herbal Preservation.)

After several years of offering generic refills in its stores of $4 for a month's supply and $10 for three months, WalMart is taking the plan nationwide by mail. Other major chains, like CVS and Walgreens, should be expected to follow suit.

The question may be asked whether this will kill small pharmacies, but that train left the station long ago. When chains move in pharmacists become employees, glorified clerks. I have never gotten real personal service from one, even though the chains constantly advertise it.

But if price is the issue, the drug store industry has now leveled the playing field against the big insurers and it will be interesting to see what comes next.

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