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The Associated Press reports this morning that contrary to previous reports, Publix will not match the discount prices on generic prescriptions that are offered by its competitors.

Publix has announced that it is changing its approach to pharmacy discounts, offering seven commonly prescribed antibiotics for free rather than offering a plan similar to that of Wal-Mart, which offers more than 140 generic prescription drugs for $4.

According to the story, while in the past Publix was willing to match other companies’ programs on a case-by-case basis when asked to by customers, it will no longer do so, but rather will stick simply to its own offering.

Albertsons already has announced that it will match both the Wal-Mart and Publix programs.
KC's View:
The economics of Wal-Mart’s program must be really hard for a company like Publix to support; otherwise, I cannot imagine why it is making this shift and drawing such a thick line on what it will do and will not do.

After all, antibiotics tend to be short-term drugs, so offering them for free simply must not as costly as offering more than a hundred longer-term generic drug prescriptions for $4 apiece.

Now, to be fair, there is another argument – that Publix didn’t want to play a “me, too” game, and believed that it could have a greater impact on moms and families with the antibiotic program. (Indeed, you could argue that by simply matching everybody else, Albertsons is firmly establishing that it is willing to play by everybody else’s rules…which isn’t always the best approach.) If that’s the rationale, rather than cost, then I’d temper my criticism and wait and see how this all plays out.