December 6, 2013

Seattle-based regional pharmacy chain Bartell Drugs will open, in early 2014, retail-based clinics inside three of its stores under a partnership with local health organization Group Health Cooperative.

The importance of the news isn’t just the fact that this will mark Bartell’s foray into the convenient care clinic arena but also that it speaks to a much broader notion — 2014 will be the year of the clinics. Yes, we have said it before and we’re saying it yet again.

December 2, 2013

CVS Caremark is planning to acquire Coram, the specialty infusion services and enteral nutrition business unit of Apria Healthcare Group, for roughly $2.1 billion. Coram provides infusion therapies and nutrition services to more than 20,000 patients each month.

The acquisition is a significant move for CVS Caremark given the growth of the home infusion business and specialty pharmacy. Furthermore, it enables CVS Caremark to further leverage its “integration sweet spots” and is in line with the company’s strategy of investing in core businesses that will help drive growth.

December 2, 2013

Rite Aid announced Monday the promotion of Karen Staniforth to group VP pharmacy initiatives and clinical services from her current position of VP pharmacy for the chain's mid-Atlantic division. In her new position, Staniforth will oversee the company's strategy around the Wellness Ambassadors, specially trained staff who walk the aisles of the stores and provide information on health and wellness products and programs, as well as serve as a "bridge" between the front end and the pharmacy.

From the beginning, Wellness Ambassadors have been a crucial part of Rite Aid's Wellness store remodel program, and early on, John Standley, its chairman and CEO, noted that Wellness stores with Wellness Ambassadors showed stronger sales than those without them. As of the chain's second-quarter 2014, the results of which it announced in September, there were 1,700 Wellness Ambassadors at 1,019 stores.

December 2, 2013

Canada's Jean Coutu Group is helping to bolster holiday sales with the launch of its "e-store window" inside the Longueuil Metro Station. Commuters will be able to shop a wall of deals using their smartphones with delivery before Dec. 24.

It's not really an example of thinking outside the box, as much as it's eliminating the concept of a box altogether. It's an extension of the Jean Coutu brand name into a space typically associated with billboard-style advertising, only stoppers-by can shop the space as easily as they do in the store or online.

November 22, 2013

A new report released by Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix shows that the Canadian healthcare system could save C$1.4 billion to C$1.9 billion by expanding the role of pharmacists.

While there are some important differences between the healthcare systems in the United States and Canada, both face common problems, in particular, a rising burden of chronic disease and rising costs. But they also have in common a way to alleviate some of the burden on physicians and some of the costs: increasing the kinds of services that pharmacists can provide.

November 22, 2013

Walgreens on Thursday announced the appointment of Sona Chawla, president of e-commerce, as president of digital and chief marketing officer. In this new role, Chawla will lead a newly created Digital and Marketing Division, establishing a unified and integrated digital, enterprise-wide marketing, and customer loyalty and insights group to advance Walgreens “Well Experience” strategy and vision to be the first choice in health and daily living in America and beyond, Walgreens stated.

Chawla is a brilliant thinker and tech wiz whose e-commerce strategies have helped Walgreens forge new relationships with customers however they engage with Walgreens — now she brings that expertise to a global marketing role for the company at a time when digitization and big data-driven insights are bringing a greater degree of personalization to customer engagement efforts.

November 22, 2013

On Nov. 18, the Senate passed by voice vote the Drug Quality and Security Act, sending to president Barack Obama's desk legislation that implements federal tracking and tracing of drugs and strengthens federal regulations on pharmacy compounding.

The bipartisan bill, which has the support of such trade groups as the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association and the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, ties up a couple of problematic loose ends in the pharmaceutical supply chain, namely the so-called "downstream" supply chain, which refers to the path that drugs take from their manufacturers to providers and patients, as well as sterile compounding.

November 15, 2013

Rite Aid is testing a revamped beauty section in at least one of its Genuine Well Being stores, in New York's West Village. Dubbed Beauty Vision, the section features a wider assortment of brands, a spruced-up look and a Beauty Vision adviser who can help customers learn about various brands and products. The chain is promoting the new concept with a special event on Tuesday featuring Eddie Funkhouser, creator of the eponymous cosmetic brand.

Assuming president Obama's healthcare reform initiative works out - notwithstanding the rough start it's had so far - and tens of millions of uninsured Americans get healthcare coverage, it's going to mean a lot of potential new customers for pharmacy retailers. But while that will drive script count and get people through the door, it will also drive pharmacy margins down. This means retailers will need to do more to make themselves stand out in the front end, and one of the best ways to do that is with beauty.

DSN took a close look at Rite Aid's new beauty concept this week. See it for yourself.

November 15, 2013

Following a successful test run last summer, Target has announced the expansion of its Beauty Concierge program to nearly 100 stores in three metro areas across the country — making the program now available in nearly 300 Target locations nationwide.

Why is this important? Customers want an experience when shopping. And getting customers more engaged in product and experience with "brand-agnostic experts" is a safe bet.

November 15, 2013

CVS Caremark has announced the appointment of William Shrank as chief scientific officer and chief medical officer, provider innovation and analytics. In this role, Shrank will oversee the company’s overall research and clinical program development.

Why is this so important? Well, he’s a physician having previously practiced with Brigham Internal Medicine Associates. He also served as assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and served as director, research and rapid-cycle evaluation for the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. And what’s especially interesting to note — as highlighted by CVS Caremark — is that Shrank is “experienced in pharmaceutical outcomes research.”

November 8, 2013

In a new study, which was published in the November issue of Health Affairs, researchers looked at retail clinics and found that eliminating restrictions on nurse practitioners’ scope of practice could lead to lower healthcare costs.

Again, 2014 will be the year for clinics. Why? Because this is where the rubber meets the road and clinics are an important solution in healthcare reform.

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.