Walmart enters fray

Friday, August 24, 2012

Holy smokes! Walmart in July introduced diabetes test strips for $9 a box.

“What? We can’t even get it for that,” said Cindy Bishop, one of the owners of Diamond Medical Equipment in Little Rock, Ark.

Walmart, which has long had a lower priced ReliOn brand of diabetes supplies, launched its new low-cost ReliOn Prime meter, which sells for $16.24 and ReliOn Prime test strips, which are sold in 50-count boxes. 

Providers say they don’t think the rock-bottom pricing will lure their customers. 

“Most of our customers are doctor or nurse educator referrals and most doctors don’t want store brands,” said Mark Gielniak, vice president of Diabetes Plus in Warren, Mich. “They want name brands because they can download (data from) them and things like that.”

Providers say they expect to see even more low-cost products in the future. Asian manufacturers have already been peddling lower-priced goods to appeal to struggling providers.

“They came out of the woodwork,” said Chris Rice, CEO of Diamond Respiratory Care in Riverside, Calif., which won a mail-order contract for Round 1. “I was approached by manufacturers who were selling boxes of strips in the $4 (wholesale) range, but you had to import them, you had to brand them.”

With these so-called “value” products entering the market, providers find themselves doing their own vetting to ensure product quality.

“We found them all to be fairly accurate,” said Dan Gooch, owner of Pal-Med in Columbia, S.C. 

Walmart has never been shy about low pricing; it offers $4 co-pays for generic drugs.

“They can offer a few things at an insane discount that undercuts their competitors, because they want to drive more customers into their stores,” said John Norton, director of public relations for the National Community Pharmacists Association.