Free-prescription program plans to go nationwide

Pharmacies are so eager for your business, they're giving away the drugs!

A free-prescription program in Michigan expects to go nationwide by this summer, according to the Detroit News.

The concept is so simple that it falls under the "Why didn't we think of that?" category. It also helps two parties in need: consumers who cannot afford medicine and the recession-battered drug chains.

Consumers sign up by clicking on the "FREE" box at for a chance to be randomly drawn for free generic prescriptions at the 14 pharmacies involved in the program. (Among those participating in Michigan are Kroger, Target, Spartan and Wal-Mart.)

Everybody wins. Consumers feel better at no cost. And when they visit the pharmacy to pick up the drugs, the stores get more traffic (Epsom salts and aftershave, anyone?), plus more opportunities to cultivate repeat shoppers.

"We're all bargain hunters in today's economy," Chris Haack, a senior analyst at Mintel told the newspaper. "People want to feel like they're getting a deal, and they've basically come to expect sales. It's up to merchandisers to create marketing specials that meet bottom lines, while making shoppers think they're stealing away with a great find."

The Michigan pilot program began Dec. 1 and will end Jan. 31, the Detroit News said. Jason A. Klein, president of Troy, Mich.-based Medtipster LLC, told the paper he plans to expand around the country by summer.

Klein began Medtipster's service by accident. The site's original function was to serve as a health care search engine that hunts for drug bargains, not marketing drives that offer drugs gratis. When Klein wrote a blog item about the trend toward free prescriptions from stores such as Meijer Inc., he exclaimed, "We're all in!" Mistaken consumers thought he meant all pharmacies were in on the deal, so people inundated his in-box with 14,480 emails, the story said, asking how they could get free prescriptions. Instead of apologizing for the misunderstanding, Klein began to call the prominent chains to see if they would like new business in exchange for giving away prescriptions. They replied with a resounding yes.

"The success of our business is being driven by what started as a crippling error," Klein told the newspaper.
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