5 top diabetes drugs free today at Giant Eagle

| Thursday, July 29, 2010

Giant Eagle Inc. today will offer five of the most widely prescribed Type 2 diabetes medications for free.

The program is the latest that Giant Eagle and other grocers across the country are offering to keep shoppers healthy and to bring more customers through their doors, experts said.

Diabetes medications that previously cost Giant Eagle pharmacy customers $4 per prescription and are now free include the generic medications glimepiride, glipizide, glyburide, metformin and chlorpropamide.

"We see this program as a natural extension of our efforts to increase value to our pharmacy customers," said Randy Heiser, Giant Eagle's pharmacy operations vice president.

Diabetes is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Diabetes Association, with an estimated 23.6 million children and adults, about 8 percent of the population, having the disease.

In Pennsylvania, data from 2007, the most recent available, found about 764,000 Pennsylvanians 18 and older had diabetes, the state Health Department said. In Allegheny and surrounding counties, between 8 percent and 11 percent have the disease.

In November 2006, Giant Eagle rolled out $4 generic prescriptions, and soon after began offering a three months' supply of certain prescription medications for $10. Last September the grocer introduced for free the nine most popular antibiotics, Heiser said.

In the past 10 months, the O'Hara-based company has filled more than 975,000 free antibiotic prescriptions, saving customers nearly $6 million. The new diabetes program is expected to cost Giant Eagle between $4 million and $5 million, Heiser said.

"Shoppers will switch their prescriptions to buy healthy foods and get the free medications," said retail consultant Burt Flickinger III in New York. "Giant Eagle is getting new customers to switch to its pharmacies, improving the health of its current shoppers, which means they will be shoppers longer."

Other grocers, including Meijer in the Midwest, Price Chopper in the Northeast and Publix in Florida offer free diabetes medications, but none offer the five most widely prescribed medications, Flickinger said.

In addition to the free diabetes medications, pharmacy customers can take advantage of free diabetic screenings throughout August at 211 Giant Eagle pharmacy locations in Pennsylvania and Ohio. The tests offered will include glucose screenings and tests to check average blood sugar levels.

Specially trained pharmacists, who have gone through 32 hours of home study and live training as per ADA guidelines, will be available at all pharmacies to answer diabetes-related questions.

"We also are offering our customers at 29 Giant Eagle pharmacies, beginning in September, one free nutritional consultation," Heiser said.

Those pharmacies are listed at the Giant Eagle website .

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