Today’s post is a guest editorial from Jeff Ellis, R.Ph., about $4 prescriptions. Jeff is the editor of the E-Info Exchange, the e-newsletter of the Illinois Pharmacists Association. He has kindly given me permission to reprint his
P.S. See How Pharmacists View Wal-Mart's Pricing Strategy for my historical (circa October 2006) perspective on the issue.
In My Opinion
By Jeff Ellis, Editor, E-Info Exchange, IPhA
This week I have focused on the $4 prescription. I honestly thought it would go away as it seemed such an incredibly bad idea, particularly if one expected to at least break even when dispensing a prescription. I did not foresee the tenacity of a certain chain who shall remain nameless and who very possibly owns the world; or the accolades from society that followed. I assume the publicity from the stunt is “priceless”, so it continues. This morning NBC5 in
How do you answer this? I have come up with some conclusions.
- Meet the price (which may lead to #1).
- Beat the price (which also may lead to #1).
- React to it using halfway measures and hope it goes away (which also may lead to #1)
- Offer more value for the higher price. Decide what that value is, publish it to our patients, sell all the employees on the idea and adhere to it slavishly.
There are no doubt many other ways to respond and we all would certainly like to hear what they are. The platitudes and clichés I see in articles seem unimpressive. I hear constant talk about $4 a gallon gasoline and how it is affecting patients. One response is to reduce the amount of money they pay for prescriptions, no matter how annoying, how little service or how long the wait is. (Aside: A gallon of gas is more than a prescription at Wal-Mart.)
We are attempting to sell PBMs, as well as the state and federal governments on the idea that to break even on a prescription we must get about $9 over cost. All studies say so. The $4 prescription is not helping our cause. It is also disheartening to me that such large employers of pharmacists seem to think so little of pharmacy.
If pharmacists decide (individually) they do not want to work for an employer that thinks nothing of their profession, I foresee these employer(s) crying to regulators about how the shortage of pharmacists is affecting their ability to deliver $4 prescriptions to their customers (they are, of course, customers-not patients) and how the only solution is to train technicians to staff their pharmacies and we need a change in regulation to allow this.
Consider the ramifications of that. I am not convinced that some of the leaders and educators of this profession do not see this as the future and are training our young pharmacists for this eventuality. But how many consultant pharmacist positions are out there?