LAKELAND, Fla. — Publix Super Markets is now offering a selection of free generic antibiotics.
Starting last week, all of the retailer's 684 pharmacies began participating in the program in five states: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.
New or current customers can fill a valid prescription of seven generic oral antibiotics at no cost. Each prescription is limited to a 14-day supply; however, Publix is not limiting the number of prescriptions customers may fill for free.
The medications were chosen based on past customer use, Publix spokesman Dwaine Stevens told SN. “These drugs are 50% of the generic prescriptions filled at Publix in the area of pediatrics. They are commonly used antibiotics so they represent the best benefit for our customers.”
The plan is similar to one launched by Meijer, Grand Rapids, Mich., in October 2006, just over a month after Wal-Mart Stores announced its plan to offer select generic prescription drugs at $4 for a 30-day supply. The drugs chosen by Publix are the same as those offered for free at Meijer: Amoxicillin, Cephalexin, Sulfamethoxazole/Trimethoprim, Ciprofloxacin, Penicillin VK, and Ampicillin and Erythromycin.
Although Meijer, which operates in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky, is seen to have been at least partially reacting to Wal-Mart's initiative, Publix has acted almost a year later.
“The cough and cold season is on the way and it's likely that Publix wants to make a bold statement that is still cost effective in terms of generating new business,” said Jim Wisner, president, Wisner Marketing Group, Libertyville, Ill. “Persuading customers to change pharmacies generally requires something fairly interruptive.”
Stevens said that although Publix doesn't know what the program will cost, company executives did analyze a number of scenarios. “We have yet to see exactly how impactful it will be financially, but it could also bring new customers into the store,” he said.
The biggest driver for the company, however, is offering a health and wellness service at a value. “We're aware that some customers do balance between paying for high prescription prices and buying food,” he said.
In an impact analysis based on Wal-Mart's $4 plan, Information Resources Inc., Chicago, found that initial decisions by major drug chains not to match the pricing have not hurt channel performance in the short term. However, retailers across channels do need to closely monitor their marketplace, the study showed.
The report, which was released in May, states, “The $4 generic program from Wal-Mart is redefining value in the minds of consumers and they will come to expect more value-added programs in the coming years.”