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.

September 13, 2013

The Department of Health and Human Services is setting aside $5.3 million to expand health information technology — particularly telehealth — in rural areas in order to improve mental health services for veterans.

Telehealth represents one of the best ways to expand healthcare services to underserved areas while also lowering costs by expanding the area a health professional can cover from a single location.

September 13, 2013

Theranos and Walgreens announced a long-term partnership to bring access to Theranos’ new lab testing service through Walgreens pharmacies nationwide. As the service becomes available through Theranos Wellness Centers inside Walgreens stores, consumers will be able to access less invasive and more affordable clinician-directed lab testing.

With this news, it becomes clear that the days of the Walgreens pharmacist and nurse practitioner are numbered. Not because those professionals are going anywhere, mind you. But because the connotation associated with those occupations really no longer apply. With the number of healthcare services being rolled out under the Walgreens umbrella, it would be more apropos to identify them as healthcare brokers.

September 6, 2013

Expanding pharmacists' role in Canada could reduce the burden of chronic illness on patients and save the country's healthcare system between C$1.4 billion and C$1.9 billion (US$1.34 billion-$1.83 billion) over the next three years, according to a new report released by Arthritis Consumer Experts, the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada and Shoppers Drug Mart.

Canada's single-payer healthcare system is vastly different from that of the United States, not to mention differences between the two countries in terms of laws and regulations that govern pharmacy, but the lessons from the study apply equally to both.

September 6, 2013

CVS/pharmacy has kicked off the second half of its annual Project Health wellness campaign, which is slated to deliver more than $15 million worth of free health screenings to multicultural communities across the country by the end of the year.

While this campaign, known as Proyecto Salud in Spanish, isn’t exactly a new one for the pharmacy retailer that doesn’t take away from its importance. This campaign further illustrates the vital role that community pharmacy plays along the frontlines of U.S. healthcare and is especially timely given the fact that healthcare reform looms on the horizon.

September 6, 2013

MarketsandMarkets has projected the global market for mobile health apps and other products is expected to reach a value of nearly $21 billion in five years, according to a new report. That's some 3.5 times larger than today — MarketsandMarkets estimates health apps generate some $6.3 billion today. That's also a lot of consumer/patients interested in getting a better handle on their own care — and that spells opportunity for pharmacy operators.

The truth is, these could be very conservative figures. Both smartphone and tablet penetration is on a steep incline across the world, leading to more app downloads. And the baby boomer generation — tech savvy most of them — aren't getting any younger. And that leads to more health and wellness downloads.

August 26, 2013

The collaboration between Community Health Network and Walgreens' Healthcare Clinic is officially underway as of last week, the companies announced. It's just one manifestation of how retail clinics and the pharmacies that house them will contribute to making health care more cost-efficient in the years ahead through coordinated care vetted by improved outcomes.

In fact, 2014 will be the year of the retail clinic. The collaboration dovetails nicely with Walgreens' plans to significantly expand the scope of care found at Healthcare Clinic that president and CEO Greg Wasson talked about at the company's last quarterly conference call. "These new services include diagnosis, treatment and management for hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and asthma, as well as additional preventive health services," he said.

August 26, 2013

To help battle the national prescription drug abuse epidemic in the country, CVS Caremark embarked on a program whereby it tapped its extensive database to identify and halt inappropriate prescribing of high-risk drugs.

The reality is that drug stores have been caught in the middle of the nation's prescription drug abuse epidemic, and CVS Caremark’s efforts are an example of the larger role that retail pharmacy can play.

August 26, 2013

Peapod is opening nine new pickup locations at Stop & Shop stores around Massachusetts and Rhode Island as part of an expansion push in New England, bringing its total number of sites in those states and Connecticut to 27.

The way Americans shop for groceries is undergoing a rapid and dramatic change. Supermarkets will likely continue to exist for a long time, but a growing amount of shopping for food is happening online.

August 19, 2013

In a segment of CNBC's "Mad Money" program, host Jim Cramer proclaimed "Rite Aid is back" when a caller asked for the former hedge fund manager's opinion about the Camp Hill, Pa.-based retail pharmacy chain. "Rite Aid is good. … It is an okay situation. The group is strong," Cramer said.

Cramer's proclamation only confirmed what Drug Store News has been saying for a while now, ever since it became clear that Rite Aid had hit pay dirt with its Wellness+ loyalty card program, growing sales and reversing several years of annual and quarterly losses. In April 2013, the company posted its first profitable fiscal year since 2007.

August 19, 2013

After failing to gain enough support in a California Assembly, a revised bill that allows nurse practitioners to operate independently only in a hospital, clinic or other group setting regained some of its momentum and advanced in the Assembly.

With the introduction of Senate Bill 941, as well as proposed legislation that is currently pending in several other states, it is clear that lawmakers are increasingly recognizing the vital role that nurse practitioners play. They are also realizing that expanding nurse practitioners’ scope of practice will only become increasingly important as millions of uninsured Americans come into the insurance fold come 2014 due to health reform amid a growing shortage of primary care physicians.

August 19, 2013

Walgreens last week made several executive moves to boost its Daily Living business organization, chief of which was the announcement that Alex Gourlay will make the transition from chief executive of Alliance Boots' health and beauty division to EVP, president of customer experience and daily living for Walgreens. http://www.drugstorenews.com/article/walgreens-announces-enhanced-daily-...

Gorley will fill in the vision and leadership hole Joe Magnacca left when he departed Walgreens to take on challenge of reinventing Radio Shack. The move showcases the kind of extended depth chart that is now enjoyed across Walgreens and Alliance Boots and takes Walgreens' strategy of tapping the best executives to fill strategic positions to a whole new global level.