Friday, September 22, 2006

What the heck, one more on Wal-Mart

All of y'all who get so teary-eyed when Walmart pressures a supplier into lowering its prices better get out your hankies. According to the Washington Post, this time Wal-Mart is going after *sniffle* those poor, innocent pharmaceutical companies.

Yep, those evil bastards at Wal-Mart have a plan to sell generic drugs for $4. (Item: CC's birth control is a generic, even with double health insurance she pays $8.)

First they sell affordable clothing, then affordable food and now affordable medication to their mostly-poor customer base. What evil plot to destroy our national fabric will they come up with next?

CC

8 comments:

Psyton said...

I certainly hope the quality of the birth control isn't the same quality as the "we painted these thin cotton pants to look like jeans but really they are thin cotton pants" jeans I've seen at Wal*Mart a few times before...

Shawn Anthony said...

Now, now CC ... think about this for a bit.

This is a program limited to Florida, at the moment. Once again it is all about the Wal*Mart philosophy: CONQUER BY VOLUME.

Lots and lots of pharmaceuticals are sold in Florida. Wal*Mart will cash in by owning the demographic. They will make more money by selling boat loads of cheap pharmaceuticals to Floridans than they ever would by selling non-generics at regular cost. It's about volume. Will the Floridans benefit? Yes, of course. This benefit is, however, limited. It is short sighted. Those FLoridans will also buy a jar of pickles, a shirt, a magazine, and some WD-40 while they are there picking up their cheep drugs. Will the larger economy benefit? No. It will suffer because Wal*Mart deals in huge volume across the board.

Wal*Mart is smart. They chip away at the edges. They are not interested in taking on drug comps. or helping the poor.

But .. if you like them and think they are great that's up to you. I'm not trying to change your mind and will always, always appreciate you. :)

Chalicechick said...

The apprectiation is returned, of course.

Again, I don't love Wal-mart and don't shop there, partially because they don't have one particularly close to me but also because the crappy quality concerns Psyton pokes at. (Though I'm sure the drugs are fine. I mean, as long as you keep the chemical composition the same, a drug is pretty hard to screw up.)

At the same time, I've never understood the level of vitrol Walmart seems to constantly inspire.

Are they ultimately doing this to help the poor? Of course not. The Walmart spokesperson in the article even says that they are doing it to make a profit.

I guess I just don't see making a profit as an inherently evil thing and it does seem to me that this will help the poor in the long run, even if they decide to buy pickles, a shirt, a magazine and WD-40.

CC

Anonymous said...

Hi

Everything I am now wearing, except for the shirt, came from Walmart. Pants, belt, shoes, underware - all from the big W. I shop there because not only do they give good value, but it is easy to know what something costs - no complex coupons, no business where you get a card and if you buy $$$$ worth of stuff then you get a discount of whatever. I hate that kind of thing, it makes it hard to really know what something costs. (Also, the TI graphical calculator came from Walmart.)

best wishes

Dudley Jones

fausto said...

Feh. Generic drugs are commodities, like widgets, and they're offering the program on only 300 drugs of the thousands out there, and it's only in one state. They'll never do it on all generics nationwide, let alone patented drugs, because it costs them more than $4 in labor and materials just to count, package and dispense the pills.

When Wal-Mart pressures the name-brand pharma manufacturers to drop their prices on drugs still under patent, and threatens to steer the prescribing doctors into prescribing lower-cost substitutes if the mfrs don't comply, I will laud them.

Until they do, it's only a publicity stunt.

(BTW, the anti-spam word verification code for this post was "yauufd". Young Adult UUs' Four-dollar Drugs?)

UUpdater said...

At the same time, I've never understood the level of vitrol Walmart seems to constantly inspire.

In general the company "on top" draws the most heat. I doubt any other software company gets the amount of hate directed at it that Microsoft does.

And sometimes going after the leader does make the most sense. IIRC, when McDonalds decided to not support suppliers that debeaked their chickens it was enough to pretty much force the hand of the entire industry of suppliers. Had they tried to pass legislation, or approach the problem through smaller fast food resteraunts then it may not have happened. If they attacked the whole fast food industry McDonalds may not have lost customers because everyone else looked bad to. Attacking McDonalds appears to have been the right choice, even if all the other fast food chains were just as guilty.

If things improve for Wal-Mart employees, that would be good for a huge chunk of people. That change may force other employers to do the same. For example more employees at more companies might be able to get healthcare. In another blog thread you had this to say:

Because politicians know that by going after Wal-Mart they can look populist and like they care about the workers. (Hint: If they really wanted poor people to have healthcare, they could have passed a law giving it to them. Demanding that Wal-Mart give people health care at great expense when they wouldn’t do so themselves is a cheap ploy to make you shut up.)

Pulled from here.

Of course not every company has the profit margins that Wal-Mart does, and other companies might be forced out of business if you tried to force every company to offer healthcare. That approach is just way to lefty/socialist for my tastes. I would much rather see people protesting a hugely profitable company than trying to pass legislation that might hurt the economy. I don't think legislation for all companies is a realistic solution politically or economically. But if a large enough group of consumers can force change in an industry giant it may have a positive impact.

I'm not Anti Wal-mart. I have not seen the movie, or etc. but I do understand the logic of going after the top dog. It might be effective where attacking the whole big box industry might fail.

Consumers do tend to benefit from "bad" business practices. I doubt most poor people would boycott a store that used sweat shop labor. Microsoft was convicted of being a monopoly, but do you think anyone is complaining that now you can download cool web browsers for free as opposed to everyone paying $30 or so for the software application? Cheaper drugs - yeah people will be happy.

I do think it is probably politically unwise to be anti anything that is very popular.

kim said...

(Though I'm sure the drugs are fine. I mean, as long as you keep the chemical composition the same, a drug is pretty hard to screw up.)


I wouldn't be too sure, CC. I have had experience otherwise. Making drugs can be a pretty delicate operation and if the manufacturer takes too many shortcuts and no one is checking, you may get something you didn't bargain for. In drugs, a chemical that is "almost" the right molecule can have some pretty long-range side effects. Aspartame is one atom different from the molecule that causes Alzheimers.
My experience involved a prescription drug that started out as a brand name drug, then Kaiser switched me to a generic version. It was fine. Then, the next year, they changed to someone else's generic version. It was ok too. Then they changed to yet another manufacturer's generic version and it was terrible: lot's of side effects and it stopped having the desired effects. When I told my doctor, he casually said, "Yeah, I've heard that from a lot of people." so it wasn't just me. I ended up paying full price out of pocket to get the brand name drug. They wouldn't change back to any of the generics that worked -- I asked.

Anonymous said...

When Wal-Mart pressures the name-brand pharma manufacturers to drop their prices on drugs still under patent, and threatens to steer the prescribing doctors into prescribing lower-cost substitutes if the mfrs don't comply, I will laud them.

With the insurance system, this wouldn't matter to most people. If they cut the cost, you still pay the copay, it would be your insurance company that reaps the savings.

One reason health care costs rise so fast is because of the insurance system, the type of cost savings moves that ordinary people take by shopping for the best value that help contain costs in other sectors don't happen in healthcare. It's why Pharma companies can keep their prices high, and people get mad at their insurers instead for balking at covering it or raising premiums.