In an effort to help families be heart healthy, this week Midwest retailer Meijer began offering the generic substitute for Lipitor® (atorvastatin calcium) for free in all 199 Meijer pharmacies.
The addition expands the retailer's free medication program, and makes Meijer the first retailer in the Midwest to offer this generic cholesterol lowering medication – up to 30 tablets per fill in 10, 20, 40 and 80 mg strengths – free to customers with a physician's prescription.
"We're pleased to announce that our customers will now be able to fill their generic cholesterol-lowering atorvastatin calcium prescriptions for free in all of our pharmacies," Co-Chairman Hank Meijer said. "In keeping with our commitment to provide low-cost solutions for the families we serve, the free cholesterol-lowering medication program is another way to help the customers who rely on our pharmacies."
This program can help Meijer customers manage their condition and ultimately lower their risk from heart disease.
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that can build up on artery walls if there is too much in your blood. High blood cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States. An estimated 17 percent of the U.S. adult population – or one in every six adults – has high cholesterol, according to the Atlanta, GA.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Atorvastatin calcium is considered a statin drug, which slows down the production of cholesterol in the liver. Over the past 20 years, the use of statins skyrocketed, increasing tenfold, according to the 2010 annual report from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.
"This initiative will have a huge impact because the cost of pharmaceuticals is frequently a barrier to getting appropriate treatment," said Dr. David Wohns, a cardiologist with West Michigan Heart and the director of the Spectrum Health Meijer Heart Center Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories. "The biggest way to reduce the risk of heart disease comes from treating cholesterol. To have that drug available for free has the ability to impact countless lives."
The free generic cholesterol-lowering medication, atorvastatin calcium, will be the fourth free program offered in all Meijer pharmacies. In six years, Meijer free pharmacy programs have enabled tens of thousands of people throughout the Midwest to receive free medications and lead healthier lives, saving a collective $181 million over that time.
Meijer launched its first free pharmacy medication program in October 2006 by filling select antibiotics at no charge. That program covers leading oral general antibiotics with a special focus on the prescriptions most often filled for children. The company has filled nearly nine million free antibiotic prescriptions at a cost savings of more than $150 million to Midwest families.
The free pre-natal vitamin program began in May 2008, and has since filled nearly 1.5 million prescriptions, saving families more than $20 million. Meijer began providing no-cost prescriptions for metformin, the most commonly prescribed drug for type 2 diabetes, in 2010; the program has filled more than 1.1 million prescriptions, saving customers an estimated $10.5 million.