November 8, 2013

A proposed rule from the Food and Drug Administration would effectively eliminate artificial trans fats from foods in the United States by classifying partially hydrogenated oils as unsafe food additives and thus permitting them only in certain cases.

In its proposal, the FDA emphasized that it would give manufacturers of foods that contain trans fats enough time to reformulate their recipes in order to minimize market disruptions by spreading out the initial cost of about $8 billion over a number of years. While trans fats have been eliminated from most foods already, foods that still contain them include frozen pizzas, microwave popcorn, margarines and some dessert foods.

November 8, 2013

The Senate this past week heard legislation that would reverse the provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandating a prescription on the sale of an over-the-counter medicine being paid for through a flexible spending account. All those in the retail pharmacy industry are staunch supporters of the legislation.

And that's because retail pharmacy gets it. It's not about the sales — has anyone ever heard of a consumer who decided not to purchase a pain reliever or cough syrup because it wasn't an eligible FSA purchase without a trip to their doctor? No. That person doesn't exist — they'll buy the same amount of OTCs to cure what's ailing them with an FSA as without an FSA. No, it's about the value inherent within OTCs. It's about tapping into that value to the benefit of both consumers and overall health care.

November 1, 2013

Kroger’s Little Clinic is on a growth path. The company is looking to open as many as 50 new retail-based health clinics next year, according to published reports, as part of a clear health care play the retailer is making in the midst of healthcare reform.

We’ve said it before and we’re saying it again: 2014 will be the year of the retail clinic. Kroger currently has about 106 clinic locations and, by the end of 2013, the company looks to have nearly 120 clinics across six states. Next year, as many as 50 additional clinics will open their doors, according to reports.

November 1, 2013

A recent survey, dubbed the “Retail Buying Experience,” by Experticity has revealed an expertise gap among sales associates at retail. The survey also found that consumers value expertise above all else, but 2-out-of-5 consumers said they are routinely disappointed by the lack of expertise they encounter in the stores.

The survey findings really point to one word: personalization. Like the survey says, consumers want help with their buying decisions, and they want the retailers to be an active player in their shopping experience. They want retail sales associates who have product knowledge, can help in selecting the right products, have category knowledge and can assist in finding alternatives when the first choice is not available. They want personalization.

November 1, 2013

A new study by IMS Health finds that most apps focused on health and wellness have limited functionality or evidence of value in advancing healthcare provision and outcomes, with fewer than half of them directly related to patient health and treatment, and more than half of them having fewer than 500 downloads.

With more than 43,000 health-and-wellness apps from the Apple App Store alone included in the IMS study, but a dearth of apps for elderly patients with chronic conditions, there is ample opportunity for developers to address this need. That will become especially important as health care becomes increasingly focused on patient outcomes. And this means opportunities for apps that address the ever-present issue of poor medication adherence.

October 25, 2013

CVS/pharmacy’s SVP and chief marketing officer Rob Price was recently featured on Yahoo! Finance’s Big Data Download to talk about the launch of its new myWeekly Ad, which is a digital circular powered by its ExtraCare loyalty program.

This is important as it demonstrates that CVS/pharmacy continues to get major attention for the new program, and it further illustrates the push — major push — that the retailer is making on personalization.

October 25, 2013

With is proposed acquisition of German wholesaler Celesio, McKesson creates a global distribution enterprise on the scale of Walgreens, Alliance Boots and AmerisourceBergen before them. In addition to wholesaling, Celesio operates about 2,200 pharmacies across six countries and is the No. 2 operator in the United Kingdom.

Retail pharmacy and drug sourcing both are more and more becoming a global business. Just last week, the head of the second-biggest drug chain in Brazil announced he would be open to a buyout. So expect more of these headlines in the months to come.

October 25, 2013

The Food and Drug Administration plans to officially recommend that products containing 15 mg or less of the opioid painkiller hydrocodone be rescheduled as Schedule II controlled substances, from the current Schedule III classification. While the idea is to combat abuse and misuse of the drugs, pharmacy groups say the rescheduling would make them harder to obtain for patients who legitimately need them.

The desire to combat abuse and misuse of prescription drugs — now a worse problem in the United States than cocaine or heroin — is laudable, but unlike those two drugs, hydrocodone has a legitimate use as a painkiller, and it's the people who are using it properly and legally who will end up losing.

October 18, 2013

CVS/pharmacy has officially taken the lid off of its new myWeekly Ad digitized circular program, which is powered by the retailer’s robust ExtraCare loyalty program.

Aside from being pretty darn cool technology, the new myWeekly Ad is a crystal clear example of CVS Caremark’s laser sharp focus on personalization.

October 18, 2013

One of the casualties associated with the recent government shutdown and game of chicken that legislators played with the nation's debt ceiling is consumer confidence. And this will have significant ramifications coming into the fourth quarter holiday season, especially as the debate over government spending and the debt ceiling crisis has not been resolved but only delayed until January.

Holding the holiday season hostage means Washington has lost big points with big retail, and IRI measured the impact. Reminiscent of recession shopping behaviors, almost two-in-three consumers are cutting back on non-essential spending; half are again gravitating toward private label or other value propositions and two in five are beginning to scour online resources in search of coupons and deals.

October 18, 2013

Chattem recently announced that the Food and Drug Administration approved Nasacort Allergy 24HR nasal spray (triamcinolone intranasal) as an over-the-counter treatment for seasonal and year-round nasal allergies. And that means by spring 2014, there will be another allergy powerhouse alongside Allegra, Claritin and Zyrtec.

October 11, 2013

It's been the week of the dollar store. Dollar General opened store No. 11,000 last week, and Family Dollar continues to reinvent its brand relevance with the consumer as the company posted monster gains for its fiscal fourth quarter and the year, driven by store experimentation, remodels and the introduction 1,000 SKUs, including many health and beauty items.

October 11, 2013

A new law in Maine will allow the importation of drugs from abroad through mail-order from some pharmacies, formalizing a practice that has existed in many parts of the country for several years, and marking the first time a state government has, by law, gone against Food and Drug Administration regulations that bar importation of drugs.

Bloomberg columnist Megan McArdle said Maine was "going rogue" on drug importation, and that pretty much sums it up. The state, which has long had a close relationship with Canada — its governor, Paul LePage, is of French-Canadian descent and spoke Quebecois French as his first language — is openly defying federal law. And because federal law ultimately trumps state law, it's likely the federal government will crack down at some point.

October 11, 2013

By November, Walgreens will have completed fine-tuning its management structure for maximum effectiveness in realizing its three-pronged strategy. That strategy includes improving the front-end experience through retail theater. It includes establishing the pharmacist as the go-to source for healthcare, not just for the patient but for the payer, too. And it includes creating an unrivaled global economy of scale.

Now with all of the pieces in place, Walgreens has shown it has both a knack for creating the optimal retail health experience and identifying the corporate talent who possess a proven track record of transforming good ideas into better realities.

October 4, 2013

It was a big week for executive promotions, particularly the appointment of Mary Kelly as EVP and chief merchandising officer at Rexall Pharma Plus and Chris Dimos, who has joined McKesson as SVP corporate strategy and business development.

There’s no doubt that these two industry leaders bring much to the table in their new roles.

October 4, 2013

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is taking to the airwaves to emphasize the role its members play in disseminating information about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the health insurance exchanges, which officially opened on Tuesday. NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson appeared on Bloomberg TV's "Surveillance" Tuesday morning to talk about what pharmacies are doing for healthcare delivery.

The NACDS and National Community Pharmacists Association have long touted retail pharmacies as the most accessible centers for health and wellness, and pharmacists as the face of neighborhood health care. That role is especially important given widespread ignorance among the public about the Affordable Care Act and the exchanges.

October 4, 2013

Walgreens reached a 19.1% prescription market share for its fiscal year ended Aug. 31. But that wasn't the story to come out of the Chicagoland retailer's conference call. The story was how far along Walgreens has come in its pledge to transform pharmacy.

Truth is, there isn't one aspect of the pharmacy business that hasn't been touched by Walgreens' focus on transformation. And with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act yet to come in 2014, Walgreens is far from done. See for yourself: click on DSN's Walgreens news feed — all Walgreens news, all the time — and you have one story after another about how Walgreens is helping to redefine what retail pharmacy means to employers, payers and most importantly, the patient, almost on a daily basis.

September 27, 2013

Barilla, a leading Italian pasta brand, has become the subject of an international boycott after company chairman, Guido Barilla, made remarks during a radio interview that critics have characterized as disparaging gay people.

While everyone is entitled to having a personal opinion, this is lesson 101 on what not to say. If you want your brand to reflect your personal opinion — which you are, of course, entitled to — don't be surprised if people who don't share your opinion don't want to share your brand experience either.

September 27, 2013

Congress is expected to pass the Drug Quality and Security Act, which would subject sterile compounding pharmacies to stronger federal regulations and has attracted support from an independent pharmacy trade group, compared with a previous effort at federal regulations of compounding, Senate Bill 959, which many pharmacists feared would threaten their businesses and patients' access to compounded drugs. The efforts to place compounding pharmacies under federal regulations stem from last year's scandal in which many patients died and more were sickened after taking injected steroids contaminated with fungus.

The bills' purpose is simple enough: protecting the safety of patients by preventing irresponsible pharmacies like the New England Compounding Center from slipping through the cracks. But the older bill attracted opposition from independent pharmacies because, despite its good intentions, forced them to make costly changes to their business models or force them out of compounding altogether.

September 27, 2013

H-E-B pledged to not reduce employee work hours in an effort to avoid having to cover their healthcare last week. In contrast, other employers have been cutting their employee hours to avoid the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provision that would require healthcare coverage, according to a report published in the San Antonio Express-News.

And while some companies may be looking at ways to squeeze more out of their businesses, H-E-B, along with Walgreens and others, should be applauded for doing the right thing.

September 23, 2013

A report funded by a Council for Responsible Nutrition Foundation grant made the case for supplementation as a key component in any healthcare cost reduction strategy. It's not news to those in the industry who already know the health benefits associated with supplementation. But for the consumer media so quick to run a negative headline, this may come as a bit of a shock.

Here's the secret. Dietary supplements are not only a part of a healthy diet, they also beget healthier behaviors. And America is at the precipice of becoming a whole lot more interested in healthier behaviors. After all, the cost burden shift from the employer to the consumer will only continue. And as consumers assume more and more of those healthcare costs, reports like this will help make the case that supplementation is worth a look as a cost containment tool.

September 23, 2013

Rite Aid reported its second quarter 2014 earnings Thursday, posting its fourth-consecutive profitable quarter, its passing the 1,000 mark in the number of stores it has converted to the Wellness format and more than 930,000 members of Wellness65+, the latest extension to its Wellness+ loyalty care program, aimed at seniors.

In other words, the country's third-largest drug store chain has once again shown it's on a roll. In light of the latest earnings, the company raised its guidance for fiscal year 2014, expecting a profit of between $182 million and $268 million.

September 23, 2013

Walgreens Healthcare Clinic (formerly known as Take Care Clinic) has formed a multi-year agreement with healthcare technology company Inovalon to provide Inovalon’s data-driven encounter support platform, Electronic Patient Assessment Solution Suite (ePASS), within Healthcare Clinic at select Walgreens.

The news clearly represents yet another step in Walgreens’ commitment to improving patients’ access to healthcare solutions. In fact, the news comes about a week after the retailer announced that it is bringing access to Theranos’ new lab testing service through Walgreens pharmacies nationwide.

September 13, 2013

Nurse practitioners are increasingly playing a key role in helping patients stay on track in taking their medications as prescribed, with nearly half of NPs indicating that the time they spend on patient education has increased over the past two years, according to Manhattan Research’s “Taking the Pulse Nurses 2013” study.

Highlighting the important role that NPs play in today’s healthcare system is essential as millions of uninsured Americans come into the insurance fold in 2014 due to health reform amid a growing shortage of primary care physicians.