Should consumers pay extra to fill a prescription at a pharmacy that sells tobacco?

In a push towards consumer health CVS Caremark plans to charge extra to members of of their pharmacy benefits management program (PBM) who fill prescriptions at a pharmacy that still sells tobacco products, AP reports.

The network would slap an extra co-payment on patients who fill their prescriptions at stores that still sell tobacco. That payment won’t apply to prescriptions filled in the tobacco-free network, which would include CVS and Target locations nationally, as well as other pharmacies that abstain.

CVS spokeswoman Carolyn Castel said her company developed the new network after several PBM customers asked for it. The tobacco-free network will only be used by the PBM customers that choose it.

The Wall Street Journal that these co-payments could cost as much as $15.

Some independent pharmacies, meanwhile, are crying foul. They worry that CVS will not provide a complete list of participating pharmacies, which would place CVS pharmacies at an advantage, since CVS and Caremark are owned by the same parent company and often benefit from joint promotions.

Today’s Question: Should consumers pay extra to fill a prescription at a pharmacy that sells tobacco?

  • tj4

    I advise against it, mainly because proximity to one’s home can be an important factor in choosing a pharmacy. If a person has mobility challenges and their nearest pharmacy sells tobacco, it seems that they’ll unnecessarily suffer under this proposed policy. A likely unintended consequence but a potential one.

  • Sue de Nim

    This is a business decision by a commercial enterprise, not a ruling by government regulators. The management of CVS is apparently trying to tie their brand to an anti-tobacco stance, thinking that would be good for their business. They should be allowed to do that and see if the idea succeeds or fails in the marketplace, unless there’s a good reason for government to step in and prevent it. One could argue that anti-trust laws might apply, but on the surface it’s not causing any social or ecological harm– at least not as much as tobacco causes, and that’s still legal.

    • davehoug

      Legal yes, wise maybe. Good for CVS, bad for others. Let capitalism decide 🙂

  • Gary F

    Some day the government will force this on us, or those of us that “liked our policy but couldn’t keep our policy”.

    CVS doesn’t sell tobacco because the margins are too low for all the work they require(carding, inventory control, tax forms). They will claim to be self righteous, but it was a business decision.

    What will big spending Democrats addicted to tobacco taxes do if the money dries up?

    Smoke ’em if you got ’em folks, somewhere there is a Democrat addicted to tobacco tax revenue.

    • Dave M

      But this isn’t the government. This is a (gasp) private company changing their own policy.

      • Gary F

        Read the first sentence, “some day”.

        That is the goal of ACA, total government control of your healthcare.

  • davehoug

    I really really doubt there is any health impact to either smokers or non-smokers whether a store also sells tobacco when filling a prescription. Smokers will continue, non-smokers will continue.

  • PaulJ

    No. It’d probably be better if ONLY pharmacies sold that drug.

  • Dave M

    The article doesn’t make it clear that CVS Caremark isn’t the same thing as CVS pharmacy.

  • Jim G

    No. It seems self-serving and punishes their members whether or not they purchase tobacco from these other pharmacies. It’s just a marketing ploy to increase market share.

  • Mark in Ohio

    I wonder how this will affect facilities like WalMart and Grocery stores, many (most?) of which have pharmacies and sell tobacco products. It sounds to me like CVS Caremark trying to reduce the number of potential competitors to their sister company. It’s an interesting twist on the old “Company Store” racket. This is a common business practice, where you try to convince the writer of the bid specification for an item to include some relatively unique feature of your product, thereby ruling out your competitors without being overt about it.

    I would point out that this will have a bigger negative impact in rural regions where choices are fewer and farther between, and your only proximal choice may be the local supermarket.

  • Robert Moffitt

    If Target’s pharmacy is part of the network, no problem. They stopped selling tobacco products years ago, before it was hip.

  • bob hicks

    If this prompts Walgreens and other retail outlets with pharmacy service to stop selling tobacco, so as to avoid losing scrip customers who will be subject to the surcharge, I’m all for it.
    Whether Target and CVS went tobacco-free because they were rare cases of corporations with a conscience, or whether they did it for branding purposes or because the cost of selling smokes outweighed the benefits, god bless ’em.

  • JQP

    only if the “exra” fee is used for tobacco health-care.

  • guest

    that is a crock of crap it’s wrong for them to charge a person extra for filling where they sell cigs, no reason for it, no one makes a person smokes, no makes a person drink, and as a person paying for prescription meds i’ll fill where I chose and shouldn’t have to pay for a tobacco fee.