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Beneficiaries include mass-market discount stores; chains and independents are suffering
There’s little surprise in the fact that U.S. consumers are more comfortable with generic medications, since the healthcare establishment has been promoting them aggressively for years. Harris Interactive (Rochester, NY) ran a survey on this topic in 2006, and has just repeated it for 2008. Now, the growing acceptance of consumers (from 68% to 81% who express a “preference” for generics) also seems to be affecting the choice of retail pharmacy: When asked, “Where do you go most often to buy prescription drugs?” respondents ranking of discount stores rose (13 to 17%), as did mail order (11% to 15%) and supermarkets (10 to 12%), while chains dropped (39 to 33%) as did independents (12 to 8%).
However, another polling question muddles this trend. When asked specifically about taking advantage of the Wal-Mart or Target pharmacy programs ($4 for a 30-d supply of certain generics; Kmart and other discounters have similar programs, as do some chains) the picture changes. The percentage of “very likely” or “likely” to use the programs dropped from 50% in 2006 to 47% in 2008. The data might be indicative of a difference between those with insurance programs and those without; even though the percentage expressing a preference for discount-store programs dropped, the number who were “absolutely certain” that they would use the programs rose, from 13 to 16%.
Nevertheless, it is striking how much the public’s perception of generics’ value has changed. Only 4% of respondents (down from 9% in 2006) said that they would “always” buy brand-name prescription drugs over generics—which almost suggests that consumers are actively avoiding branded products when given a choice.