If Woolworths really wants to crack the pharmacy cartel, its good friends and mentors at Wal-Mart might have the solution – offer the government seriously cheaper generic prescription drugs.

At present Canberra is beholden to the chemist shop lobby in keeping Woolies out of the protected, regulated and subsidised pharmacy business, but perhaps they would be more receptive if the Budget was promised cheaper drugs.

Wal-Mart, in the land of expensive medicine, is pushing ahead with the roll-out of US$4 prescription generics in Florida. So far it’s only a small number of drugs, according to Reuters, but it’s a start and has the local Governor, Jeb Bush, happy.

“This is a disruptive idea that is going to bring benefits to millions in our state,” said Jeb. “It is disruptive in the marketplace. The other pharmaceuticals ought to be thinking about doing the same thing.”

Wal-Mart had trialled the cheaper drugs in Tampa in the heart of retirement territory and has brought forward the state-wide rollout from January before going national next year.

And while looking at interesting ideas that could be tried here, a British road safety group has leant its backing to Norwich Union’s pay-as-you go car insurance policy whereby insurance is levied according to how much, when and where a car is driven, all recorded by an onboard black-box.

A lot of late-night miles means a higher premium than daylight driving, reflecting the higher chances of a prang in the wee small hours. And the less a car is on the road, the less chance of it being in an accident.

The technology offers the chance of getting closer to user-pays principles, something politicians sometimes like.

Peter Fray

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