$4 prescriptions are being encouraged in a report by a leading consumer agency this week. And three month (90-day) prescription refills are being promoted by a major retailer.

We’ll start with the $4 prescriptions: In their March issue, Consumer Reports is releasing findings that indicate that many generic drugs are safer, as effective, and have a lower cost, than their brand-name counterparts. But they say that many consumers are not taking advantage of discount drug programs, which offer generics at prices as low as $4 a month.

Lisa Gill, editor, Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs (BBD), said “”Retailers like Kmart, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart have been steadily expanding their discount programs, offering $4 a month prescriptions for drugs that our evidence based program deems ‘best buys’. We suspect that consumers aren’t taking full advantage of these programs because of the constant din of drug advertising which is steering consumers toward overpriced brand name drugs.”

The statement also indicates that consumers may be able to save more by getting a 90-day prescription supply for certain medications.

Which brings us to Walgreens, which just began a new advertising campaign last week for its 90-day prescription program. They call it their “3-fill” program, and have the tagline “It’s 3 refills in one. And for 3 months, you’re done”. They join CVS Caremark and Walmart as major retailers promoting 90-day prescription supplies.

The major retailers designed these programs as a response to online prescription drug marketers, which were undercutting prescription drug prices by delivering in larger volumes, according to Adam Fein, an analyst at Gerson Lehrman Group. “This competition benefits payers and consumers at the expense of generic and brand pharmaceutical manufacturers,” he wrote in his analysis.