“Our system has allowed Costco to not only
remain competitive, but to set standards in an ever-changing pharmacy market,” says Fred Floyd, director
of Costco’s pharmacy network. “It speeds the information flow, reduces the margin of error in filling prescriptions and increases the efficiency of the pharmacy
staff, freeing pharmacists to confer with patients and
reducing waiting time.”
COSTCO’S ONLINE pharmacy
(go to costco.com, click on “pharmacy”)
offers more than just convenient refills
and home delivery—it is a repository of
health and medical-related information.
With 14,000 to 16,000 drugs now on the market, drug reference
material is needed to help educate members, says Vic Curtis, vice president in charge of Costco’s online pharmacy.
“That’s where costco.com’s online pharmacy program can really
shine,” says Vic. “In addition to providing online convenience for filling
or refilling prescriptions for pickup and delivery, it’s a great source of
information on disease, prevention and drugs.”
“Our site has information on drug interactions, such as drugs, foods
and over-the-counter remedies that might not be compatible with your
prescription medications; detailed information about prescription drugs
and over-the-counter remedies [uses, side effects, how to take]; vitamins,
herbs, minerals, and other supplements; health
information organized by specific health concerns;
and assisted-living services,” continues Vic.
Costco’s online pharmacy has many other
advantages, from pricing information on prescription medications to ordering, refilling or transferring prescriptions for delivery or pickup at the
warehouse of your choice.
“This provides convenience for those who like
to set their own pace, are on vacation or can’t
travel to the warehouse, and privacy for those
who want to place orders or consult with a pharmacist from home,” says Vic. IC
“If I could use just one word to describe our system,” says Vic Curtis, vice president in charge of
Costco’s online pharmacy, “that word is ‘safe.’ State-of-the-art efficiency doesn’t mean anything if we can’t
assure our members of their safety. And we can.”
Also, many of the 332 Costco warehouse pharmacies are equipped with an interactive voice-reponse telephone system, allowing members to phone in prescriptions 24 hours a day as well as receive useful information
about a prescription’s refill status.
Charlie says the introduction of new prescription
drugs and new health technology has made education
and hands-on service a top priority.
“We do a lot more consulting than we did in the
past,” he says. “And we have a large film library for our
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IN THE PAST few years, there
has been a flurry of articles about
prescription pricing, specifically where
generics are concerned.
“Generics represent tremendous
savings because marketing, research
and development costs are no longer
part of the drug’s cost equation,” says
Michael Mastromonica, a senior executive
in charge of Costco’s pharmacy program.
However, it was discovered that many
pharmacies in the United States were taking
advantage of generics’ low cost and making
enormous profits off unsuspecting consumers.
“A good example of this is Prozac,” says
Charlie Burnett, senior vice president of pharmacy for Costco. “As a name brand, it cost
$350 for 100 pills. When the generics were
offered, pharmacies were selling that amount
for $150. It represented a savings, but the fact
was that it was still a huge markup. We were
selling the generic for $16.”
Tempting as it may be to pad the low cost and still appear to
be selling at a competitive price, “we hold to the same strict pricing
structure with our generics as with all items at Costco,” says Michael.
“Consequently, generics sold at Costco pharmacies offer an even
“The average price for a branded drug is about $93; the average
for a generic is $19. Generics are a remarkable value and absolutely
identical to branded products. No one should pass generics up.” IC
customers on subjects such as how to use inhalers or
new blood glucose monitors for diabetes.” Consulting
rooms are in more than 200 Costco pharmacies, and
they’re being added as a standard feature in new warehouses and warehouse remodels.
Costco pharmacies also periodically offer other dis-ease-management and chronic-disease health screenings, such as osteoporosis, allergy, diabetes and cardiovascular screening tests at a low cost. (Ask your warehouse pharmacist or see the Special Events page in The
Connection for screening schedules.)
An osteoporosis screening test, for example, complete
with all necessary equipment and technicians, is free to
members. Other retailers offer this service for up to $45.
Finally, to help inform and update members on the
latest health-related issues, Costco publishes an award-winning quarterly magazine, the Costco Pharmacy
Guide to Healthy Living, available at pharmacy counters.
Charlie sums up Costco’s presciption for success:
“Combine a full-service, professional pharmacy with
wonderful, dedicated pharmacists offering top-quality
products, great prices and innovative ancillary programs and state-of-the-art technology. That’s when you
have a guaranteed healthy program.” IC