COPPELL, Texas — Minyard Food Stores here and Bashas', Chandler, Ariz., have launched free generic prescription prenatal vitamin programs this month.
They follow Marsh Supermarkets, Indianapolis, which started a similar program earlier this year. This is another iteration of discounted and free generic offerings that have included low-cost prescriptions and free antibiotics at various chains.
All three of the programs use generic vitamins from Ethex Corp., St. Louis, and offer 30-day supplies with a prescription for up to 12 months, so as to include three months after delivery.
“It's all part of our health and wellness program that we are continuing to grow, and it's evolving,” said Ron Peters, vice president of pharmacy operations, Minyard. In part, the program is a reaction to a high rate of infant mortality in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, he noted.
“Bashas' put the free prenatal program in as a community service, No. 1,” said Dan Milovich, vice president of pharmacy operations. “Bashas' is about healthy families and making health care affordable. This is just another way of us giving back to the community, especially in the area of prenatal vitamins, where some individuals might not have access to them.
“In this case, no matter how much or how little money they make, everybody is going to get this for nothing,” he said.
At the time Marsh launched its program, Steve Cummings, director of pharmacy services, said in an interview, “The benefit is to develop that relationship with the family, with the pharmacy, and to also sell groceries, because part of healthy living is healthy nutrition.”
“We are being told by the community-based organizations that there are factors that influence an expectant mom not getting prenatal care and prenatal vitamins,” Peters said. “There are economic factors, educational factors and environmental factors. So by providing the free vitamins, we are helping them with the economic part of it.”
Customers are also provided with educational materials in English and Spanish about how to have a healthy pregnancy, he said. Also, by presenting a prescription, the pharmacy knows that the customer has gone to a physician at least once. “Hopefully, they will establish that relationship with a health care provider, a physician, and continue to see that physician throughout their pregnancy,” Peters said.
Neither pharmacy executive foresees discontinuing the programs. Both chains have promoted them heavily. Bashas' had it in a pre-Mother's Day circular, while Minyard has a StartLifeHealthy.com website and in-store materials, and it has sent out letters to obstetrics physicians and community organizations, Peters said.
Bashas' has a broader discount generics program, while Minyard doesn't, and has no plans to, Peters said. At a time when the industry is trying to demonstrate the cost of filling a prescription to the government, “I just see this as a negative for pharmacy. When you are turning out generics for $4 or whatever, you are turning your pharmacy into a loss leader,” he said.
Bashas' offers a 30-day supply of 300 drugs for $3.99, and a 90-day supply for $9.99, Milovich said.