July 11, 2014

CVS/pharmacy replaced single-ingredient pseudoephedrine products with the tamper-resistant PSE product, Zephrex-D, in all of its West Virginia stores, as well as stores in nearby states that are located within 15 miles of West Virginia's border, including Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

 

With the move, West Virginia has become a de facto test market for the diversion-defiant PSE formulation, because along with CVS/pharmacy, Rite Aid and Fruth and soon Walgreens will all be selling similar formulations. The move sends a stern message to West Virginian methamphetamine makers to the tune of Tom Petty's "Don't come around here no more."

July 3, 2014
There were two big deals in the nutrition space this week: Kroger bought one of the most successful VMS e-commerce sites in Vitacost.com, and Hormel bought a dominant nutritional/supplement brand in Muscle Milk. 
 
With Vitacost.com, Kroger will offer customers the convenience to order online and ship to their door with an expanded assortment online. Vitacost.com fields about 45,000 SKUs, and there's a roughly 10,000 SKU overlap when Kroger's mix is factored in.

 

June 27, 2014

Just two months after Labeed Diab was named head of health and wellness at Walmart, Mark Phillips was elevated to the role of VP pharmaceutical merchandising. Phillips assumes command of more than 4,175 retail pharmacy operations that generates $16.8 billion in pharmacy revenue, according to DSN's PoweRx 50. In his new role, Phillips will lead the pharmaceutical merchandising team and report to Diab. Phillips, who most recently served as the senior director of merchandising in small formats, is a long-time buyer for Walmart and may be an indication of Walmart's steadfast commitment to growing pharmacy, health and wellness, especially across Walmart's smaller formats.

June 23, 2014

There has been a lot of good news generating out of Rite Aid headquarters in Camp Hill, Pa., in the past week. Not the least of which was the 2.7% lift in first-quarter sales and the 3.1% gain in same-store sales for the period. Rite Aid delivered its seventh consecutive quarter of profitability, noted John Standley, Rite Aid chairman and CEO, during a conference call with analysts last week. And Motley Fool’s consumer goods analyst Sean O’Reilly raved about Rite Aid's Health Alliance program, what he described as the company's "ace up its sleeve." O'Reilly noted that the Health Alliance program is designed to drive traffic into Rite Aid's stores through doctor recommendations in the markets where Health Alliance is active. But there's a deeper dive here, because Rite Aid is driving the right customers into its stores — customers with poly-chronic or chronic conditions that represent more frequent trips and bigger market baskets. What's more, Rite Aid's Health Alliance program aims to make those acquired patients more sticky by coordinating a comprehensive care program that will help those patients reach their health goals.

June 13, 2014

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that teen smoking, drinking and sexual activity have declined.

June 6, 2014

Sam’s Club recently announced a credit card cash back program that gives members the opportunity to earn up to $5,000 annually. Marking one of the biggest changes in membership in more than a decade, the club operator in one fell swoop boosted its appeal to loyal Sam's Club members and close the gap between Sam's Club and its chief rival, Costco. The news comes off of a first-quarter performance that Sam's Club president and CEO Rosalind Brewer characterized as “one of our more difficult quarters.” While the club operator was negatively impacted by weather and a reduction in public assistance, Costco emerged under the same conditions with a positive same-store sales comp figure.

May 14, 2014

Retail sales rose ever so slightly in April, putting a damper on hopes of a sharp uptick in economic growth in the second quarter. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, retail sales — which include categories such as automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants — rose 0.1% in April, following a revised 1.5% increase in March that ranked as the biggest since March 2010.

May 12, 2014

Consumer year-over-year spending growth of 4.1% gained momentum in April 2014 compared with the prior month’s growth of 3.1%, driven by warmer weather, as well as the Easter shift into April this year, according to First Data SpendTrend analysis.

May 12, 2014

DSN had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Doug Hebert, Co-Founder and Vice President of RxArmory, and Shelly Mowrey, Vice President of RxArmory about the importance of substance abuse prevention.

May 9, 2014

Bayer agreed to acquire the consumer care business of U.S. pharmaceutical company Merck for a purchase price of $14.2 billion. The OTC acquisition will give Bayer the global No. 2 position in nonprescription products following recently announced consolidations in this growing healthcare industry segment, and will significantly enhance Bayer’s business across multiple therapeutic categories and geographies. Merck's consumer care business includes such leading brands as Claritin, Coppertone and Dr. Scholl’s. Pro forma sales of the combined businesses in 2013 amounted to $7.4 billion with Merck’s business contributing approximately $2.2 billion.

Upon completion of the acquisition, Bayer is expected to achieve global leadership positions in dermatology and gastrointestinals and advance to the No. 2 position in the cold, allergy, sinus and flu category. Bayer will remain No. 2 in nutritionals and No. 3 in analgesics. Overall, the proposed GlaxoSmithKline-Novartis combination represents the largest consumer health business with about 5.7% share, according to reports. The Bayer/Merck combination comes in second with around 4.5% share. McNeil Consumer rounds out the top three globally with a share just above 4%.

May 2, 2014

"NACDS helps to protect the value we currently deliver and sets the stage to provide an even higher level of care, all while sending a powerful message that chain pharmacies are doing far more than filling prescriptions and selling merchandise." That's the message incoming National Association of Chain Drug Stores John Standley had for NACDS Annual attendees. It's a critical juncture in the healthcare industry, he said, and everyone who participates in NACDS plays a substantial role.

NACDS is getting a seasoned performer at the helm. Standley has shown exemplary leadership and remarkable clarity of vision in leading the turnaround at Rite Aid — today the retail health care company is in the best shape it has been in financially in more than a decade, and introduced several very innovative new programs and initiatives from the wellness ambassadors to wellness+ to the Rite Aid Health Aliance, and most recently its acquisition of RediClinic.

April 28, 2014

Looking to “break the myths” about millennials, and help marketers and brands effectively engage with them, Nielsen has released a new report, dubbed “Millennials: Breaking the Myths of this No Strings Attached Generation.”

April 11, 2014

Spring 2014 will be marked as a watershed moment for Rite Aid — it's the season Rite Aid officially transitioned from an operation on the turnaround to a renewed and recharged entity positioned for future growth.

"Fiscal 2014 was far more than just another great year for Rite Aid," John Standley, Rite Aid chairman and CEO, shared with analysts Thursday morning. "Because of our continued positive momentum, we are now in a position to evolve our strategy from one that focuses on turning our company around to one that emphasizes growth. Because of the rapid change taking place throughout the healthcare industry, we believe there is enormous opportunity to meet evolving marketplace needs, better serve our customers and demonstrate our value to the healthcare system. In many ways, we feel as though we're beginning a new chapter here at Rite Aid as we look to further expand our healthcare offerings and strengthen the many wellness offerings that have driven our recent success."

April 4, 2014

Walgreens helped create a new, larger worksite health organization when it sold a majority interest in Take Care Employer Solutions to strategic health investor Water Street Healthcare Partners. The new entity, which combines Take Care with CHS Health Services, will serve more than 200 leading corporations through nearly 500 worksite health-and-wellness centers across the country. Walgreens still maintains a significant stake in the company and will continue to manage their existing worksite clinics in collaboration with the new company.

The end result will be an opportunity to couple best practices into an entity with a greater economy of scale that's part of a business model with a lot of upside. The vast majority of large employers remain committed to providing benefits to active employees, according to a recent survey by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health — an association of large employers — released in March. Offering health insurance as an employee benefit is something the majority of small businesses think is very important, too, according to the 2014 Small Business Health Care Survey from the National Small Business Association — 91% of firms fielding between 20 and 50 employees and 94% of businesses with more than 50 employees believe health benefits are crucial to employee recruitment and retention.

March 28, 2014

DSN recently launched a new microsite, DrugStoreNews.com/Pain-Management, to bring attention to a tragic side of the prescription drug abuse story — one that's not often told. The millions of Americans who live in chronic pain who already find it difficult to access the medications they need may soon find it even more difficult — because proposed changes in regulatory policy are expected to place additional hurdles on their treatment pathway.

March 21, 2014

Good things happen in small boxes. That's what Walmart is counting on with the introduction of its latest store concept — Walmart To Go. First the supercenter, then Neighborhood Market, then WalmartExpress and now Walmart to Go. The boxes just keep getting smaller.

But what if Walmart is on to something? What if tomorrow's definition of convenience is ubiquity? Then it makes a lot of sense to start filling in the gaps between the supercenters with smaller formats.

March 14, 2014

Wellness empowerment. Even before Rite Aid’s big announcement last week, officially unveiling its newest program, the Rite Aid Health Alliance, those two words more or less reflected every major initiative happening at the company over the last few years: the Wellness stores; its Wellness+, Rite Aid’s health-based loyalty program; the Wellness Ambassadors in its stores… It’s always been about engaging patients in wellness, and empowering them to take steps to improve their health and well being. The Rite Aid Health Alliance takes that commitment down to the “atomic level of patient engagement,” Rite Aid chairman and CEO said last week, at a live event at one of its Buffalo stores.

Through the program, Rite Aid pharmacists together with a new patient care position in Rite Aid stores, the Care Coach, work directly with patients with chronic conditions and poly-chronic conditions to help them meet specific health improvement goals, as outlined by the patient’s physician. Care coaches, who are specially trained in behavior change to help patients address health issues related to lifestyle, work with patients to take their physicians’ recommendations and “break them down into sizeable, understandable milestones,” Jocelyn Konrad, VP healthcare initiatives for Rite Aid, told DSN. Rite Aid’s Health Alliance stores can “become an extension of the physician’s office,” she said. “It’s going to be a different experience for the patient. Whatever [they] need to understand and be motivated, we will work to provide it.”

March 7, 2014

It's finally happening. Pfizer has placed the ball at the line of scrimmage. And based on the X's and O's to come out of its Lipitor OTC actual-use study, Pfizer will be making its run with its eye on the ultimate prize — a successful Rx-to-OTC switch of a statin.

Only this time, the Food and Drug Administration may not be as quick to sack Pfizer's switch attempt. With the advances and pervasion of health technology in the self-care space by way of smartphones and tablets; with the evolution of the pharmacist as a healthcare professional able to practice at the top of their license; and with the adoption of diagnostic tests like a cholesterol panel that can be physically administered in the pharmacy, consumers may finally get it right when self-selecting a statin.

Because it's the consumer actual-use studies that have scuttled just about every statin switch attempt in the past. In the last switch of Mevacor, FDA advisory panelists determined the statin was safe enough for the self-care space. And it was effective. It's just that the consumers who would be right for an OTC statin didn't appropriately self-select. And if they can't appropriately self-select, what's the point, really?

February 28, 2014

Following speculation that Safeway may be considering "strategic alternatives," Safeway executives during their latest conference call confirmed just that — the supermarket retailer placed itself on the sales block. Before that conference call, analysts were already putting two and two together and coming up with two viable suitors for the Safeway footprint — private investment firm Cerberus, also known as New Albertsons, and supermarket giant Kroger, which has just closed on Harris Teeter for $2.5 billion.

Cerberus is said to be the lead bidder, but Kroger shouldn't be ruled out. But what would Cerberus or Kroger be getting if they purchased Safeway outright for almost $10 billion? In addition to 1,335 locations and a $2.7 billion book of prescription business, there would be some intangibles in the deal as well — namely Safeway's relatively advanced Just for U loyalty program and a yet-to-be launched health-and-wellness platform that's supposed to evolve Safeway over the next decade from being a food retailer into being a health solutions center.

January 31, 2014

If you don't succeed the first time, try, try again. That's exactly what McKesson did when it announced that it reached an agreement with Franz Haniel & Cie. GmbH to acquire its entire holding of Celesio shares. And in a separate and subsequent agreement, McKesson also picked up the Celesio convertible bonds from Elliott.

Nothing good is ever easy. "While the path to securing this acquisition was certainly not what we had originally expected, it would seem that the interested parties to this transaction continued to see the compelling strategic benefit of McKesson and Celesio uniting to form a global leader in health care services," John Hammergren, McKesson chairman, CEO and president, said of the deal. "I never lost sight of the value this transaction will bring to our customers, our supply chain partners, the employees of both organizations and our shareholders."

January 17, 2014

The National Community Pharmacists Association shared a proof of concept study that affirmed the value retail pharmacy can deliver in saving healthcare dollars. Patients who opted-in to medication synchronization programs offered through their community pharmacy averaged more than 100 additional days on therapy per year and were 30% more likely to take their medication as prescribed.

At a time when health systems and payers are actively seeking sound strategies to keep their patients from being readmitted to a hospital, pharmacy could very well be their panacea. Sticking to a prescribed drug therapy script does just that — it helps prevent re-hospitalizations, which will be a key metric with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The community pharmacist also sees the patients more often than other healthcare practitioners and has as many opportunities to provide appropriate course correction, if necessary, around a particular medicinal regimen if it isn't working. And medication synchronization augments the pharmacists' ability to keep their patients on point.

January 15, 2014

Nearly three-quarters of osteoporosis patients prefer to take their medication in a form other than an oral solid, according to a new survey.

January 14, 2014

Just slightly more than one-third of adults aged 18 to 64 got a flu shot last season, compared with two-thirds of seniors and more than half of children, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the Trust for America's Health.

January 10, 2014

With the launch of Family Vitamin Center, CVS/pharmacy created a new health hub on CVS.com to help educate customers on the vitamins and supplements that can support their personal health goals. The site is designed to declutter the dietary supplement aisle with features like an interactive questionnaire and guidance tools that provide personalized supplement recommendations. It also allows users to shop by goal, such as heart health or immune support, and get the latest health tips. And perhaps most important, there's an automatic replenishment program.

It's a smart play. Those who supplement regularly fall into one of two categories — they're supplementing as part of a major lifestyle improvement change, or they're supplementing because they're already living that healthier lifestyle. In either case, you've got a consumer looking for — and willing to pay for — healthier solutions. CVS/pharmacy is positioning itself to be that solution.