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Bottom Dollar Food customers contribute to hurricane relief efforts

BY Allison Cerra

SALISBURY, N.C. — Bottom Dollar Food invited customers to contribute to its Hurricane Irene disaster relief campaign.

The campaign, which ended Tuesday, supported efforts of the American Red Cross to raise funds that would serve those impacted areas by the hurricane. Bottom Dollar Food accepted register donations at stores in Virginia and Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas, as well as stores in the greater Philadelphia region. Bottom Dollar Food donated $4,000 to the American Red Cross.

In related news, Bottom Dollar Food provided ready-to-eat food to the Food Bank of South Jersey, a member of the Feeding America Network, in support of the food bank’s disaster-relief efforts. The company also provided support to associates affected by Hurricane Irene.

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FTC requests additional information on ESI-Medco merger

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — The proposed merger between pharmacy benefit managers Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions hit a speed bump Friday as the Federal Trade Commission requested additional information, indicating that the deal has raised antitrust concerns among regulators.

According to the filing, the waiting period for the merger legally required under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act was scheduled to expire Friday, but the FTC’s request, officially called a "second request," extends the waiting period by 30 days after ESI and Medco have fulfilled it.

Both companies still expect the $29.1 billion deal, announced in July, to go through in the first half of 2012.

"That was an expected part of the review process," an ESI spokesman told Drug Store News. "We are looking forward to working with the FTC, as we have been, and even though the timeline for the antitrust review is not fixed, we’re confident of a positive review."

The FTC’s move drew applause from pharmacy groups that had opposed the merger.

"This is an important step in the careful consideration of a proposed merger that would have anticompetitive effects on patients, consumers, the market and the entire healthcare delivery system," a joint statement by National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and CEO Steven Anderson and National Community Pharmacists Association EVP and CEO Douglas Hoey read. "As we indicated to the FTC in our formal letter, NACDS and NCPA are concerned that the merger would result in a consolidated PBM with excessive market power, ultimately to the detriment of consumers."

The Independent Specialty Pharmacy Coalition echoed the the NACDS’s and NCPA’s sentiments.

"The ISPC commends the commission on issuing a second request in the review of a merger that would combine two of the three largest pharmacy benefit managers and the two largest specialty pharmacy companies," ISPC executive director Russell Gay said. "We are glad to see the FTC will be taking a detailed look at how further consolidation of the PBM and specialty markets may negate efforts to contain healthcare costs."

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Safeway: Flu shots during food trip more convenient

BY Michael Johnsen

PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway on Tuesday announced its offering of flu shots in its grocery stores — positioning its flu season inoculation as more convenient to drug stores.

"Safeway makes getting a flu shot more convenient than most other retailers offering immunizations, because consumers visit grocery stores on a regular basis," the supermarket chain stated. "In an average month, 49% of those surveyed said they visit grocery stores most often, compared [with] 8% who said they visit drug stores most often."

As previously reported by Drug Store News, as an added incentive to consumers, each Safeway flu shot comes with a 10% off coupon for groceries.

According to the company, Safeway pharmacists have administered more than 5 million shots over the past decade to shoppers during their routine trips to the grocery store. Safeway’s immunization services include influenza, whooping cough, shingles, pneumococcal disease, meningitis, hepatitis A/B and human papillomavirus.

“As a pharmacist and a busy mom, I know that it’s not always easy to put your health first. Sometimes, an ounce of prevention is difficult to achieve with full schedules of family activities and holiday events,” said Risa Vatanka, pharmacist and immunization specialist at Safeway. “By offering flu shots in our pharmacies, Safeway can help people get more done in one trip to the grocery store.”

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