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Blog Post:  The Redheaded Pharmacist

I remember at work once a few years back I made a joke to a co-worker saying we needed to put up a value menu sign in front of the pharmacy advertising our $4 generic drug list like they have at fast food restaurants. My point was that we already seem to model ourselves after fast food restaurants now anyway so why not? We had a good laugh about it and went on with our work but there is some truth to that joke. Are we selling our profession short?

The parallels of the $4 generic list to the “value menu” at the typical fast food restaurant is almost undeniable. Cut throat pricing and a hook to try and attract customers forced most major fast food restaurants to add a $0.99 menu to their offerings years ago. What a great country right? Where else can you get a cheeseburger for a buck at midnight!

But then reality sets in and the fast food industry realizes that they can’t offer any food item that even remotely resembles high quality and maintain that cut throat pricing that they’ve been cornered into offering. They also realize that customers had better order something else that makes the business more money while they are in the restaurant or at their drive thru or this $0.99 menu idea just doesn’t work.

Bottom line for the fast food industry meant one of two things: either raise their prices on their value menu items or cut back on the quality to maintain some hope for profits. The result of this reality is that while it is true you can still get a burger for a buck, it might be paper thin. And that chicken sandwich you just paid $0.99 for is so processed I honestly don’t know what the heck is in it but it isn’t chicken anymore.

My point is what if community pharmacy is going down this same road? Are $4 prescriptions sustainable for any length of time without cutting corners in other areas, such as staffing? Worse yet, what happens when pharmacies find “deals” on drugs from generic manufacturers that don’t measure up to the quality standards the public should demand? What if all of these recalls we seem to be receiving on a daily basis are an indication of the road we are leading our patients down?

Sure it could be true that Walmart, with all of their buying power and influence, could pull off the $4 generic list idea when they announced it years ago. But many other chains and even independent community pharmacies felt forced to follow suit to prevent a mass exodus of customers to Walmart. Just like all of the fast food restaurants developing their own value menus, to compete, pharmacies were forced to match prices or lose customers.

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