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Recessionary Shift in Medication Purchasing Favors Supercenters

Drug stores have been shifting strategies to become more proficient providers of health services based on their pharmacy operations, but the recession may be complicating their efforts.

A new report from Information Resources Inc., a Chicago-based marketing firm, demonstrates that consumers have significantly changed their medication shopping habits in the economic downturn due to factors including drug prices and insurance reduction and elimination.

Before the recession began, more than 63 percent of consumers bought medications at drug stores. The drop off to the next most popular channels was huge, down to nine percent for grocery stores, seven percent for supercenters and six percent for discount stores.

The recession changed all that. Now just over 35 percent of respondents report that they purchase their medications at a drug store. Lesser-used channels have improved dramatically, particularly supercenters, which are up to 17 percent and half as popular now as drug stores. Mass merchants and supermarkets have seen big gains as well, becoming the preferred medication purchase locations for over 13 percent of respondents, according to IRI.

Major drug chains such as Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid, it should be noted, have not seen dramatic declines in the recession, suggesting that it's mostly smaller players and independents that are being hurt by the shift, which occurred after retailers such as Wal-Mart and Kroger cut the prices on 30-day supplies of many generic prescription drugs to as little as $4, and Meijer started giving away antibiotics and pre-natal vitamins.

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