August 5, 2013

Express Scripts and Walgreens last week announced the launch of Smart90 Walgreens, a new option for Express Scripts clients interested in 90-day prescription drug programs and to help drive lower costs. The program is expected to improve medication adherence by both providing a cost value to the patient while maintaining what has more and more become a crucial patient-pharmacist face-to-face encounter.

What a difference a year makes. Far removed from its squabbles over reimubursement, the two companies partner on a new program that reinforces the value that retail pharmacy provides and the innovative ways that retail and mail can work together to create solutions that help get patients on, and keep them on, their medications.

August 5, 2013

When Seattle-based Bartell Drugs opened its 61st store in the city's rapidly growing South Lake Union neighborhood, it unveiled a store that included not only a nice new format, but also a variety of amenities rarely seen in drug stores, including cold beer on tap; such pet-friendly features as water bowls, pet-hitching posts and free dog biscuits; and a selection of local spirits.

The large-scale evolution of the American drug store has mostly happened in the big, national chains, and despite some doubts from naysayers about some of the concepts in the Walgreens flagship stores, that format has already expanded to several cities. CVS and Rite Aid have expanded their respective Urban Cluster and Wellness store formats as well, providing clear indication of their popularity with consumers.

July 29, 2013

Walgreens and Duane Reade are testing a new mobile shopping system at stores in New York that help shoppers make choices by providing relevant product information from a network of friends and experts and then sending them "perks" they can redeem at checkout. The system combines the respective mobile platforms of Pretty in my Pocket and Sparkfly, and L'Oreal Paris has signed on as the first brand partner.

As retail industry futurist Doug Stephens recently told Drug Store News in an interview for an article in the Aug. 12 issue of the magazine about the future of retail pharmacy, younger consumers are "conditioned to understand that they can have whatever they want, whenever they want it, wherever they happen to be."

July 29, 2013

Research published last week in JAMA Pediatrics found that many parents are turning to retail-based health clinics when their children suffer from minor ailments largely because the clinics are convenient.

Parents are turning to clinics for their children’s minor ailments NOT because they lack an established relationship with a pediatrician but because of convenience. In fact, most of the parents surveyed (74%) had first considered going to the pediatrician but instead opted for a retail-based health clinic because the clinic had more convenient hours or because their doctor didn’t have an appointment available.

July 29, 2013

The evolution of services now available at retail pharmacy has gained traction with news organizations targeting the investment community. CNNMoney recently spoke at length with one of the retail pharmacy change catalysts — Greg Wasson of Walgreens.

Wasson and other retail pharmacy operators have been blazing a new pathway to cheaper and more convenient health care for some time now. Inoculations and medication therapy management programs were ever only the beginning, because the future of retail pharmacy is in successfully managing lives with a healthcare system partner. "There's an opportunity for the pharmacist to play a much greater role in health care, especially with what we have going on in this country with the shortage of primary-care physicians," Wasson explained to CNNMoney. "Plus, we can also involve the front of our store, being the first source for health and daily living, continuing to make sure we're relevant in today's society."

July 22, 2013

Cardinal Health and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation are calling for proposals to research the effects of pharmacist-provided medication therapy management services on hospital readmission rates.

Medications only do their jobs if patients take them as instructed by physicians, but physicians' ability to ensure that patients are doing what they're supposed to is limited. That's where pharmacists can step in to help make a difference.

July 22, 2013

CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic is striving to help patients lose weight and live healthier lives via a new weight-loss program that incorporates the DASH diet.

The move is important as it further illustrates the increased focus among retail-based health clinics to move beyond acute care. Many retail clinic operators have already started migrating toward expanded services, including weight-loss, smoking-cessation and fitness programs. For example, RediClinic has its Weigh Forward weight management program and Lindora, which operates a handful of clinics within select Rite Aid stores, began as a weight-loss clinic first and evolved into acute care later.


July 22, 2013

Walgreens Infusion Services partners with a regional health care plan operator to better serve specialty infusion patients. Because alternate treatment sites represent a less-expensive care option, the possible savings that can be realized through this program falls between 30% and 70%, depending on the medication regimen, according to a Walgreens industry analysis.

Would you like to pay one-third, or even more than two-thirds, less on your healthcare? Of course you would. But allocating additional points-of-care, including home delivery, so that the care is better accessible and more convenient in an environment without as much overhead? That's just not paying less. That's paying less and getting more.

July 15, 2013

Family Dollar Stores on Wednesday named Jason Reiser to the position of SVP merchandising where he will have executive responsibility for the company’s health, beauty, personal care and household teams. Reiser comes to Family Dollar from Sam’s Club, where he spent more than 17 years in a variety of roles, most recently serving as VP merchandising, health and family care.

Jason Reiser is one of the brightest young merchandising executives in this industry and has proven a knack for making health and wellness relevant and exciting to shoppers in alternative channels — Reiser was instrumental in developing and implementing Sam's Club's three-pillar strategy around Awareness, Prevention and Solutions. Expect Reiser to bring some innovation in the way health and wellness is sold in a dollar store environment.

July 15, 2013

Loblaw Cos. and Shoppers Drug Mart signed a definitive agreement under which Loblaw will acquire Shoppers Drug Mart. The move follows the acquisition of Safeway Canada by Sobey's last month and a growing incursion of U.S. retail north of the border, including both Target Canada and Walmart Canada.

When Loblaw announced last week it would debut a new health-focused format to take on Whole Foods, no one could have expected it would make a deal to become the No. 1 pharmacy retailer in Canada, leapfrogging from No. 8 to that top spot with the stroke of a pen. Together the companies will operate 1,797 pharmacies across a total of 2,348 locations, meaning 1-in-5 Canadian pharmacies now will be operated by the merged company. Shoppers Drug Mart represents $4.9 billion in annual pharmacy sales, representing 47.3% of sales and $3.9 million in pharmacy sales on a per store basis. And if Loblaw's pharmacy sales are brought up to that level, the merged companies will represent $6.8 billion in pharmacy revenue.

July 15, 2013

Supermarket chain Wegmans took the time last week to issue a clarification following local news reports: It would not be ending healthcare benefits for its part-time employees. A story in the Buffalo News had a headline, "Wegmans cuts health benefits for part-time workers," that had been misconstrued.

It's no secret why Wegmans — which operates 81 stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts — is included in Fortune magazine's list of the "100 Best Companies to Work For."

July 1, 2013

CVS Caremark has released the “2013 State of States: Adherence Report,” which reviews how patients in all 50 states are, or are not, taking their medications as directed by their doctors.

This is important as medication nonadherence continues to be a significant issue within the U.S. healthcare system. To be more specific, medication nonadherence in the U.S. accounts for up to $290 billion in excess healthcare costs annually. Yes, billion.

July 1, 2013

In a new article in Men's Health magazine, pharmacists are listed among a number of other health and wellness professionals dubbed "health detectives," and seeing them about certain health problems is described as an alternative to seeing the doctor.

To regular readers of DSN, the idea of pharmacists as the face of neighborhood health care or physician extender is old news. But it's still a relatively new concept to the public at large, and that's why the Men's Health article is such a big deal and why it got a response from National Association of Chain Drug Stores' president and CEO Steven Anderson.

July 1, 2013

Though Walgreens reported an earnings gain of 85 cents per share, that fell short of Wall Street expectations of 91 cents per share. Subsequently, Walgreens' stock dropped from $48.05 before the earnings release to $44.17 at week's end.

But that's a story for day traders. Outside of the numbers, Walgreens outlined a three-point plan to boost front-end performance going forward. Meanwhile, several industry trends across pharmacy is helping to drive business higher behind the bench. So what happens if Walgreens not only continues its earnings growth trajectory, but actually beat Wall Street expectations next time?

June 24, 2013

A recent KPMG survey found that almost half (40%) of retailers will be looking to invest in technology to help grow their respective businesses. And engaging the customer through social media and loyalty apps may become significant, as 37% of retailers expect customer retention is the key to growth while 35% suggested adding to their customer bases is key.

It further illustrates the fact that marketers need to take an omnichannel approach to engage today's consumers.

That significance within social media and loyalty apps is simple, really. Marketers can't expect to generate a trip if they're not effectively reaching the consumer with their marketing messages. After all that's the underlying premise of omnichannel retailing — reaching the consumer with a shopping solution wherever, whenever and however she wants that solution, and then personalizing that solution with the help of big data analytics.

June 24, 2013

A new study by IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics found that the most wasteful healthcare spending stems from poor adherence to medications and that more responsible use of medications could save the U.S. healthcare system more than $200 billion a year.

The study is notable as it further illustrates the importance of medication adherence and, perhaps more significantly, touts the role that pharmacists can play in helping their patients live healthier lives.

June 24, 2013

Rite Aid reported its third consecutive profitable quarter Thursday, with profits of nearly $90 million, following the introduction of the largest expansion of its Wellness+ loyalty card program, dubbed Wellness65+, and days before the promotion of COO Ken Martindale to president of the company.

The 4,615-store drug chain has been on a roll lately, continuing to benefit from the switch from branded to generic drugs and the retention of last year's dispute between Walgreens and Express Scripts.

June 17, 2013

Amazon has announced that it will offer a free, 90-day trial of a new same-day delivery service to customers in the Los Angeles area that includes fresh food. The service, Prime Fresh, is being offered to members of Amazon Prime members, and after 90 days, the company will offer to let them upgrade to Prime Fresh on a permanent basis, for $299 per year, from the current Amazon Prime price of $79 per year. The company tested the program for six years in Seattle and plans to expand it to San Francisco later this year.

As Amazon director and category for U.S. health and beauty told DSN in a profile of the company back in May, Wall Street didn't like the SuperSaver shipping program, and the company spent a net $2.9 billion on shopping in 2012, a 17% increase from the year before, according to its 2012 annual report. But according to one report, Prime actually is quite profitable, and members are among the online retailer's best customers.

June 17, 2013

Kmart is distancing itself from a parody of its viral "Ship My Pants" ad on YouTube that many are saying goes too far, crossing the line from edgy to racist.

June 17, 2013

A new report by Accenture ACN states that the number of U.S. retail-based health clinics will double and drive $800 in annual cost savings by 2015.

Well, it's not just DSN saying it anymore. The massive ramp up is happening and, according to Accenture, the number of retail clinics is expected to increase 20% to 25% per year between now and 2015 and double from 1,418 to 2,868 clinics in that time period.

June 10, 2013

A 26-member joint panel comprising the Food and Drug Administration's Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs and Drug Safety and Risk Management advisory committees voted to support modifying or removing the risk evaluation and mitigation strategy protocol for GlaxoSmithKline's Type 2 diabetes drug Avandia (rosiglitazone).

Historically, the FDA has followed advisory committee votes when making a decision on the marketing of a drug even though it is not bound by them, but assuming the agency follows the panel's advice, it could mean a lot for the controversial drug and the way it's dispensed. But even if Avandia winds up on retail pharmacy shelves again, it faces a very different landscape from its heyday.

June 10, 2013

The Master of Professional Studies degree program in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City recently showcased its final projects at the annual FIT Capstone presentation. This year’s presentation focused on “Beauty in a Digital World.”

Beauty is helping to redefine the customer experience of shopping a drug store and is helping retailers set themselves apart from rivals in a very competitive environment.

June 10, 2013

Beginning July 1, Walgreens will be able to provide tube feeding services to Medicare patients in 97 of 100 competitive-bidding areas nationwide, the healthcare solutions provider announced last week. The contracts are up for renewal every three years.

This is just another example of how Walgreens is transforming its pharmacy business into a center for healthcare solutions — this goes far beyond dispensing and ultimately aims squarely at reducing hospitalization costs, another way that Walgreens is helping payers bend the cost curve. It begs the question: Should traditional suppliers be thinking about the role their products can play as Walgreens develops new business segments like infusion services?

June 3, 2013

Independent pharmacy was provided a social media stepping stone with last week's announcement pairing the National Community Pharmacists Association and RxWiki. The companies announced a joint digital solutions offering that will raise the profile of independents across both social media and mobile platforms.