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Congressional leaders are actively listening to what today’s health and wellness leaders have to say

BY Michael Johnsen

More than 300 community pharmacists helped educate their legislators over crucial small business issues as part of the NCPA’s 2013 Legislative and Government Affairs conference. All told, the pharmacists conducted more than 500 meetings with congressional offices. 

There is a reason why the industry is poised to play a larger role in health reform. Five years ago or more, the PBMs had Washington’s ear. But today, pharmacy is doing a much better job of telling its story. Counting NACDS’ recent RxImpaxt day, retail pharmacy has conducted more than 900 meetings with legislators in the past eight weeks or so. 

The DSN Group put together a special report in honor of the occasion to help illustrate just how community pharmacy is making a difference. "Pharmacists do a lot more than just dispense prescriptions," DSN editor-in-chief Rob Eder wrote in the intro to the Congress leaders’ retail pharmacy digest. "They engage in a practice called medication therapy management, working closely with patients to ensure they take their medications correctly. This practice is returning about $12 in savings for every $1 invested in it."

And that’s just one example.  

But the industry’s sharing of retail pharmacy’s success stories with Congress leaders has to continue, Steve Anderson, president and CEO for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, told recent attendees of the association’s annual meeting. “I have talked before about our all-branches and all-levels of government approach to advocacy. Now we must go deeper: Beyond reaching every branch of government to reaching — and convincing — every bastion of government, each entrenched corner of Congress, governmental departments and agencies that holds to its own beliefs, despite the existence of a better way,” Anderson told attendees. “The healthcare reform experience has validated the proactive approach of NACDS. Yet our successes expose ever-greater challenges that lie ahead.” 

And it’s not just retail pharmacy that’s proclaiming the value of retail health and wellness solutions. The Council for Responsible Nutrition and the Natural Products Association this year joined forces in sitting down with Congressional leaders over natural health initiatives. 

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Snacks often don’t provide kids’ nutritional needs, study finds

BY Alaric DeArment

CINCINNATI — Kids in child care are not meeting their daily nutritional needs with the snacks they tend to eat, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and published online in the journal Childhood Obesity, found that despite efforts to improve the diets of children in child-care settings, meals, and especially snacks, lack nutritional quality despite constituting 26% of children’s daily calorie intake. The researchers reviewed menus at 258 child-care centers in southwestern Ohio and analyzed the average weekly frequency for servings of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, juice and sweet or salty foods, finding that the composition of lunches differed from snacks in all food categories.

The study found that fruits, vegetables and meats were rarely included in snacks, but were frequently found in lunches. But 87% of centers served sweet and salty foods like gummy snacks, pretzels and crackers at snack time more than three times a week. One-hundred percent fruit juice was also listed as a component of snacks at least three times per week in more than one-third of the centers surveyed, but rarely with lunch.

"Snack time for kids is a missed opportunity," lead study author and Cincinnati Children’s pediatrician Kristen Copeland said. "With some 75% of kids ages 3-5 in child care, revising the types of foods and beverages served at snacks in child care may be a way to address the growing obesity problem."

 

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Rite Aid finds its niche ‘well’

BY Alaric DeArment

Rite Aid announced Wednesday that it has converted nearly all its stores in the Buffalo, N.Y., area to the Wellness store format, breaking the news with an event in the nearby village of Williamsville that included president, chairman and CEO John Standley, COO Ken Martindale and fitness expert Denise Austin.

Just as writers find their voices, Rite Aid has paved its road with wellness. Evidence of that was clear when it announced its latest earnings last month, raking in a $123.1 million profit for the fourth quarter and a $118.1 million profit for the fiscal year, its first profitable year since 2007.

As Drug Store News stated when it profiled the company in the December 2012 issue, Rite Aid "gets well," its business is improving, but it also has shown an understanding of wellness. As Standley put it, the company’s goal is to become a "true neighborhood destination for health and wellness."

Behind those numbers are the more than 800 Wellness stores themselves, whose front-end comps exceed those of non-Wellness stores by more than 3%, according to the company. That is thanks not just to their improved decor and product selections, but the Wellness Ambassadors, specially trained staff members armed with iPads who provide information on health and wellness products and pharmacy services. When the Wellness format was in its early stages, Standley noted that those stores staffed with Wellness Ambassadors showed stronger results than those without. As of the end of the fourth quarter, the company had 1,300 Wellness Ambassadors trained, and it plans to remodel 400 stores in fiscal year 2014.

Wellness+ is the other big factor. The number of members who actively use the program – meaning they have used the cards at least twice in the past 26 weeks — now exceeds 25 million, accounting for 79% of front-end sales and 68% of prescriptions filled, with particularly strong showings from those members who achieve Gold and Silver status. That program has helped the company retain at least three-quarters of the pharmacy scripts that it gained from last year’s dispute between Walgreens and pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts. A large portion of the chain’s pharmacy customers — and just about all of its best customers — are poly-chronic patients, those with multiple chronic conditions, Who tend to be elderly patients.

What this all means is that Rite Aid has found its niche. And at a time when retail pharmacy chains around the country are looking to distinguish themselves with services, product selections and target demographics, finding one’s niche is of critical importance.

 

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