Fiacco entering VP post may be sign of changes

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Medicine Shoppe is about to get a new top manager. And with the promotion of company veteran John Fiacco to VP of its Medicine Shoppe and Medicap stores, parent company Cardinal Health effectively is changing the culture at its franchise pharmacy division.

(THE NEWS: Cardinal taps Fiacco to succeed Burnside as top exec for Medicine Shoppe, Medicap. For the full story, click here)

Gone is Terry Burnside, the easygoing, soft-spoken West Coast retail veteran who retired recently following a six-year stint with Medicine Shoppe International, most of it as president. Stepping into his shoes is Fiacco, a lifelong East Coaster who may bring into his role a more driven management style and wide experience in pharmacy practice issues.

Fiacco’s elevation signals a change in management style and a possible shift in direction for Cardinal’s Medicine Shoppe/Medicap franchise operation, which at its peak several years ago numbered more than a thousand stores in the United States. Since then, the number of U.S. franchisees has fallen below the 700-store mark, but those numbers could rise again. Cardinal has a slew of support services for independents to boost its generic business, improve back-office efficiency, manage inventory and managed-care contracts more effectively and move into specialty medicines; and Fiacco, a veteran of both Cardinal and its Medicine Shoppe division, could be effective in bridging whatever gaps remain between franchised independents and the wholesale and health services giant that supports them.

Despite the drawdown in store count, MSI made major inroads as a high-service community health center under Burnside’s direction, particularly as a major destination for diabetic care services with its Specialized Care Centers for Diabetes.

Burnside hails from Arcadia, Calif. (a classmate at Arcadia High School in the mid-1960s was singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks), and after graduation from pharmacy school, he gained wide-ranging retail and wholesale experience with Bill’s Drug, McKesson and Alpha Beta before joining Longs Drug Stores. Over a decade-long career with that premier West Coast drug chain, Burnside rose to COO before moving to Medicine Shoppe in December 2004.

It was a stark change in retail philosophies. Longs epitomized West Coast drug store retailing with its huge, wide-open and dramatically designed stores, packed with a massive assortment of product. Medicine Shoppe stores, by contrast, are tiny by contrast, featuring big apothecaries and a limited assortment of front-end merchandise, most of it devoted to health and prevention and, in many cases, to durable medical equipment and home health.

Fiacco, for his part, spent 23 years with CVS/pharmacy in a variety of roles, and brings “a wealth of knowledge in multi-store pharmacy operations,” according to Cardinal. He has built an impressive service resume in community pharmacy, including long service with the New York State Board of Pharmacy and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, where he was president from 2002 to 2003.

Prior to coming to MSI, Fiacco was director of solutions development, health systems marketing for Cardinal.

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