In times of uncertainty and economic turmoil, Americans still have to eat and take their medicines. That essential marketplace truism isn’t lost on supermarket pharmacy operators. Trading on the enormous appeal of one-stop shopping convenience, growing demands among consumers for healthier eating alternatives, and their own growing ability to merge the health and prevention expertise of their pharmacy staff with the nutritional benefits offered in the food aisles, food-store operators continue to elevate the role their pharmacy departments play in overall store performance.
The 1840s had the California Gold Rush. The 1990s had the tech boom. Years from now, historians might label the early 2000s the generic drugs rush. But whatever they call it, the big growth years may be behind the generic drug industry. In fact, some believe that over the course of the next five years or so, the boom even could go bust, as a shortage of big blockbuster drug launches today means a dropoff in the number of new generic introductions tomorrow — pointing to even stiffer competition for a generic drug market that grows steadily more commoditized.
After a monumental effort to educate lawmakers about the value of community pharmacy and the dangers the industry faces from new Medicaid reimbursement rules and other regulatory threats, the nation’s pharmacy leaders won a landmark victory last month when the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 became law, despite opposition from the Bush White House. Chain and independent pharmacy leaders deserve to pat themselves on the back. Nevertheless, there’s not much time for celebration. New challenges are waiting.
It just may be that the current economic slowdown could be providing a significant lift for purveyors of over-the-counter healthcare solutions. Because while your average Jane makes significant trade-offs here and there on the family’s entertainment budget — opting for a summer’s worth of Disney movies at the theater in place of a week’s actual visit to Disneyland — the one thing she’s not going to skimp on is her family’s well-being. So that means all tummy aches, sniffles and sneezes, scuffed knees and/or ear infections still will be treated by Dr. Mom, whose medicine cabinet still will be stocked. And if it isn’t stocked, relief is only a quick-and-close pharmacy trip away.
In today’s immediate-gratification market of retailing, niche brands aren’t given the opportunity of the slow build that they may have been afforded in decades past — creating an environment that demands concrete success in as little as six months, according to several sales and marketing consultants throughout the industry.
The people shaping the industry and the Drug Store News power Rx 50, as well as how chains are expanding focus amid an uncertain economy, how mass retailers are pushing pharmacy by expanding programs, how regional players are strengthening their foothold by finding a niche and how supermarkets are emphasizing the health/nutrition connection.
The home health care/durable medical equipment business is commanding a presence in drug stores. Retailers are becoming aware of the huge demand for these products as the population ages and needs both the equipment to support mobility and independence, and the ability to manage diseases at home.
Even Walgreens, the crown jewel of chain drug store retailing, is struggling with a scary economic outlook, an anemic flu season, margin pressures in generic prescription drugs and high labor costs. Those forces have whipsawed pharmacy retailers in recent months, and Walgreens, it turns out, is no exception.
When retailers and suppliers gather at the Cough, Cold and Allergy Show on March 2 at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa in Destin, Fla., they will be discussing a variety of issues, including the impact of the FDA's recommendation against the use of cough-cold medicines for children under 2 years of age.
It’s apparent that the pharmaceutical landscape continues to be dominated by major brand-name drugs losing patent protection and a flurry of generic launches aimed at taking whatever share of the market they can. That’s good news and bad news for pharmacy retailers; good in that the generic introductions are expected to drive huge profit gains during their initial 180-day exclusivity period, bad in that prices tend to fall away quite dramatically in the period thereafter due to the increased competition that results, depressing top-line sales growth.
Voraciously defend. Push for government oversight (not more regulation, but better enforcement of existing regulations). Self-regulate. Publicize. Those are four initiatives tackled by the Council for Responsible Nutrition in the past year, in what could be described as a banner year for news in the dietary supplement arena. Long-awaited good manufacturing practices finally were passed, a law requiring serious adverse event reporting associated with dietary supplements was enacted in December and CRN began two key initiatives — the self-policing effort of dietary supplement advertising and a public relations campaign to fortify the reputation of supplements among consumers.
The ECRM OTC & PBC report covers trends in bath and body, facial skin care, oral care, baby care, men's grooming, ethnic hair care, analgesics, digestives, allergy and health care, including product previews of Zantac mint tablets, Arnicare Gel, Airplus Ultra Arch, Traumeel and Murine Earigate.
The Food and Drug Administration last month published the good manufacturing practices for the dietary supplement industry, most significantly requiring all dietary supplement manufacturers to test and qualify their raw ingredient sources. The GMPs could help boost consumer confidence, and consequently sales, in an industry where confidence has waned in the past few years. However, it was almost anticlimactic as the industry prepares to mull through the 800-plus pages of the GMP document.
The most significant event that occurred during a soft 2006-2007 cough-and-cold season was the shift of the decongestant pseudoephedrine behind the counter in all 50 states. To be sure, some states still require more strict regulations on the sale of PSE, but at least now PSE is behind the counter in a legislative effort to thwart homegrown methamphetamine makers.
Both supplement industry advocates and lawmakers are putting into motion early this year initiatives that finally will apply a little credibility to an often-criticized industry. Two industry groups — the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance and the Council for Responsible Nutrition — will be kicking off media campaigns this spring to better educate the press on supplement issues. And Congress in late December passed legislation requiring serious adverse events associated with nutritional supplements be reported to the Food and Drug Administration, an initiative that is expected to inject a jolt of much-needed credibility back into the industry.