More people fill their prescriptions at Walgreens than at any other pharmacy, but third-place Wal-Mart, with its $4 generic drugs program, is growing a market share fast, according to a just-completed national study.
And wholesaler Costco, which has less than a 1 percent share of the prescription market nationwide, keeps its pharmacy customers more content than any of the competition, a report by retail industry analysts BIGresearch found.
It’s good news for consumers, who are finding more low-priced alternatives to high-priced pharmacies, said Pam Goodfellow, BIGresearch senior analyst.
The company asked 8,447 U.S. consumers where they buy their prescriptions, why they choose that store and whether they would recommend it to friends.
Pharmacy giant Walgreens, which has nearly 6,200 U.S. stores, grabbed 16.1 percent of the prescription market in January, up from 15.5 percent a year earlier.
Second place CVS snagged 13 percent of the prescription business, up from 12.8 percent. Third favorite Wal-Mart landed 9.2 percent, up from 7.7 percent a year earlier.
But Wal-Mart filled 12.6 percent of the prescriptions for consumers with an average household income of $50,000 or less.
And the super discounter’s share is likely to grow, Goodfellow said.
“Walgreens and CVS are still the power players. Prescription drugs are always associated with the corner drug store. But price is becoming more of a factor, even over convenience. With recession, gas prices, there is only so much consumers can take,” Goodfellow said.
In fact, 76 percent of Wal-Mart’s prescription customers cited price as the biggest factor, while location was the major consideration for 84 percent of Walgreens’ customers and 88 percent of those who buy their drugs at CVS.
Retail giants Target and Kroger, parent of Fry’s markets in Arizona, followed Wal-Mart’s lead in offering low-priced generics programs, and both chains also are among the top 10 U.S. prescription fillers, Goodfellow said.
“It’s up to Walgreens and CVS to meet the challenge,” she said.