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Wal-Mart's $4 generics serve an urgent need

Access to affordable prescription drugs is an issue that is increasingly plaguing seniors and working families in this country. As a result, Wal-Mart has made 331 generic prescriptions available for only $4 per prescription for up to a 30-day supply.

The program now is available at all 3,810 Wal-Mart and Sam's Club pharmacies across the nation, including 103 locations in New York. However, for all the accolades the program has garnered over the past several months, a handful of our agenda-driven critics have attempted to criticize our $4 generic program through misinformation.

Some dismiss the program as "a marketing ploy." Our program provides a real solution for millions of uninsured Americans who avoid filling prescriptions they otherwise couldn't afford and remain untreated. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the 49 states where Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has rolled-out its $4 prescription generic drug program are home to nearly 46 million uninsured residents, including more than 2.6 million in New York.

Our program provides immediate relief to those who can't afford their medication, who are neglecting their health and even some who have to choose between putting food on the table and buying their prescriptions. The program also helps alleviate a major challenge for seniors who have fallen into the "doughnut hole" coverage gap in their Medicare Part D drug plans.

Since we announced our $4 generic program, several of our New York competitors have joined us in bringing more affordable medicines to our nation's seniors, working families and the uninsured. This signals the start of real change in the way prescription drugs are priced in the marketplace. We are proud to have taken the lead in introducing competition to an area where it has been too scarce for too long.

Some New York critics also question the price structure as well as the relevancy of the drugs themselves. Our pricing strategy is simple: We comply with all pricing laws in any market where we do business; in some states, certain generic drugs in the program are priced higher than $4 due to state law.

With regard to the significance of the drugs, the 331 prescriptions account for more than one in four of the prescriptions filled in Wal-Mart and Sam's Club pharmacies nationwide. In fact, according to, the list includes 14 of the top 20 prescribed drugs in the United States.

Lastly, a few critics have resorted to putting forth the alarmist view that our program will impact patient safety. Today, our board-certified pharmacists provide the same level of superior customer service in dispensing prescription drugs that they did before we launched our $4 generic program.

While our critics may want to trivialize our company's new program, we have already seen how much it matters to our customers. And in the end, it's our customers who matter most to us.

Hank Mullany is a senior vice president with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. He is president of the company's Northeast Division.

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