Asda to Sell Cancer Drugs at Cost

May 21, 2010

By George Anderson

Wal-Mart Store’s Asda division in the U.K. announced yesterday
that it would sell drugs prescribed to treat various cancers at cost to consumers
unable to get the medicines through the the
National Health Service. The chain had previously taken the not-for-profit
approach with drugs used for in-vitro fertility (IVF) treatments.

The move is
expected to save consumers in the U.K. thousands of pounds and Asda made the
call for others to follow its lead. Markups by retailers on drugs to treat
various cancers can be as high as 76 percent, according to a Daily

"The crippling cost of paying privately for cancer treatment has forced
many people to spend their savings or even re-mortgage their house to pay for
these essential drugs," said John Evans, superintendent pharmacist at
Asda, in a press release.

Asda’s new CEO Andy Clarke said, "Saving people
money so they can live better is viewed by many as just the marketing slogan
of our parent company Walmart. However, when you see what we can achieve in
areas like cancer and IVF treatments to reduce prices, the reality of that
mission statement becomes very real and very personal."

Sainsbury and Superdrug
announced they would also sell cancer drugs at cost.

Discussion Questions: Do you see at-cost pricing on cancer
drugs as becoming an ethical imperative for large chains? Do you expect
to see some variation of at-cost programs to be offered and promoted in the

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7 Comments on "Asda to Sell Cancer Drugs at Cost"

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Joan Treistman
11 years 11 months ago

I have no idea if there are restrictions regarding pricing for Rx drugs sold at retail. But heaven knows that helping people afford the cost of treating life threatening diseases is a good thing. And I suppose there is goodness at supporting Rx efforts to increase the population (IFV), aka more shoppers.

Given the conversation and initiatives around health care, it can only be considered a positive direction among consumers when drugs are sold for cost. Is there a downside for retailers? For drug manufacturers? I’m not the one who can answer that question. But when there are efforts towards helping others help themselves, I’ll wave that company’s flag high and higher!

Anne Howe
11 years 11 months ago

While I do admire in my heart the effort to sell cancer drugs to the public at cost, my brain wonders why retailers don’t take the opposite approach as well, and provide consumers with at-cost pricing on foods that are known to prevent cancer?

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
11 years 11 months ago

If there are no legal restrictions, this is a strategy that provides a real benefit to consumers and may win some loyalty to the chain as well.

Bernice Hurst
11 years 11 months ago
Until I saw this story, I was under the impression that in the UK, when cancer patients need drugs not available free through the NHS, they still have to get them through their doctor somehow. I am surprised that retail pharmacies supply them. Unfortunately I didn’t see the story until late Fri afternoon UK time so haven’t been able to find out the extent to which these chains do sell cancer drugs. I’ve tried contacting a number of people but have been unable to get an answer due to the hour. I did manage to speak to one pharmacist (from one of the big chains) who says that he has never been asked to fill such a prescription and isn’t sure he would even be able to get the drugs. Even though I won’t be able to share the information today, I am concerned and fear that the story may be somewhat misleading and only apply to a very few people. As to the suggestion that supermarkets should sell foods “known to prevent cancer” at… Read more »
Ed Rosenbaum
11 years 11 months ago

We live in a copycat world. If this works in England, and I pray it does; we will see it happen here. There is nothing more important than returning to the time when we actually cared more about a person’s health and survival than filling the pockets of the drug companies. As has been the problem in the past, watch out when the FDA steps in and refuses to allow it as has been their style on other possible cancer curing or life saving drugs used in other countries. What was the famous Pogo comment; “I have seen the enemy and it is us.”

Bill Hanifin
11 years 11 months ago

Pharmacy chains may offer drugs of this nature as a differentiating factor for their overall offering and it is the leaders that by definition are making an ethical statement in favor of their clients.

I think it is a positive idea and would term those that follow as matching the offer rather than acting out of an “ethical imperative.” I hope others do follow the move, including chains in the US.

Santhosh Jayakumar
Santhosh Jayakumar
11 years 11 months ago

This is definitely a consumer friendly initiative and helps the brand image. And to a lot of people out there who didn’t quite relate ASDA to pharmacy, this is an awesome advertisement too. I also wonder how big a business/profitability we are talking about here for the kind of mindshare the brand has received.

Another flip benefit is the mindshare for Speciality Pharmacy business at ASDA that this announcement gives. Granted, most pharmacies don’t deal with these types of medications but careful analysis of the pharmacy retailing market globally would point to this growing segment and the aggressive battle that we would see in the coming months for this pie.


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