Day-long Meet the Rx Market format joins retailers, vendors in blur of activity

BY Michael Johnsen

BOSTON “It really concentrates the dialogue on pertinent information,” said Pham. Within the eight-minute format, she added, “You’ve got to tell your story quickly” with your counterpart on the other side of the table, but those eight minutes “bring a lot of opportunities to follow up for additional relationship-building and business.” It’s like speed dating for doing business,” said one NACDS executive. He was talking about this past Saturday’s day-long Meet the Rx Market, an innovative, if exhausting, way for scores of smaller suppliers to quickly get acquainted with retail pharmacy buyers and operations executives, talk about their products and hopefully establish relationships that extend beyond the NACDS Pharmacy and Technology Conference.

“People really seem to enjoy it,” said Larry Lotridge, vice president of conference services for NACDS. “The concept is that you have that opportunity to meet for eight minutes and hopefully find enough interest to drive them down to your booth.”

Steve Heidenthal, director of pharmacy merchandising for CVS Caremark, said Meet the Rx Market gives him and his colleague, CVS director of wholesale pharmacy merchandising Brian Whalen, “quick exposure to a lot of different individuals, which I think is really key.

“We can get a quick taste of what they’re offering, particularly things that are new to the market … and it keeps you abreast of what’s coming up.”

Added Whalen, “I think it’s very helpful. It gives both sides an opportunity to at least make sure they’re getting them to the right people within an organization.”

Jacquie Pham, brand pharmaceutical manager for Sears Holding Corp., also praised the format, which gives retailers and suppliers the chance to meet with dozens of their counterparts in fast-forward eight-minute sessions in a day-long game of market-driven musical chairs.

“It really concentrates the dialogue on pertinent information,” said Pham. Within the eight-minute format, she added, “You’ve got to tell your story quickly” with your counterpart on the other side of the table, but those eight minutes “bring a lot of opportunities to follow up for additional relationship-building and business.”

Even smaller-scale retail operators find much to like. Larry Fligor, chief technology officer for Ritzman Phamracies, said the rapid round-robin meeting plan was good for both buyers and sellers. “There are some people here I thought I knew everything about, and it turns out I didn’t. They have some new lines and products we’re interested in.”

Added Andrew Fligor, Ritzman’s manager of technical services, “We probably would have blown by some of these people on the show floor and not actually talked to them. But we’ve heard a couple of things from them that are worth knowing about.”

This year’s meeting featured an expanded business format, with the inclusion of more product categories, Lotridge told Drug Store News, and a more focused series of meetings that paired retailers and suppliers with similar areas of interest, like generic drug vendors with generic buyers or pharmacy operations people focused on boosting their generic business. The result: an even more concentrated and laser-focused series of meetings than in previous years.

“If you’re meeting with them on the floor for a half-hour, you don’t need to see them here. It’s a simple matching program that says … you’re going to be matched up with the person responsible for that [on the other side of the table],” Lotridge explained.

The format also gives smaller vendors a chance to meet face-to-face with people they might never otherwise get to sit down with, like representatives of Wal-Mart of CVS. “This is for the mid-sized to smaller guys who may not yet have those kinds of relationships or level of business partnerships as the larger players, and it gives them an opportunity. That’s really what it’s designed for.”

Amanda Batchelet, newly hired manager of retail marketing and services for NACDS, said this year’s event is the largest yet, with 69 retail participants representing 46 drug, supermarket and mass merchant pharmacy chains, paired with a total of 125 supplier companies. In all, the event generated a total of 2,430 scheduled appointments.

Some larger chains brought four, five or even six of their pharmacy representatives to Meet the Rx Market, and occupied several tables. That gave them the opportunity to move around the massive meeting room and cover more ground, meet more smaller vendors and perhaps learn about a product or service for the first time.

Key to the success of Meet the Rx Market, Lotridge added, is drawing retail and vendor participants “who really have the authority to make decisions” on the spot. The real benefit of the event is to open the door to a larger dialogue and a long-term relationship between suppliers and chain pharmacy purchasers and decision-makers, but even in an eight-minute format, some business is done, he said.

“Certainly, it’s an opportunity for both groups to find out whether there’s an interest” in a product offered by the vendor, or the establishment of a new marketing plan by both sides, Lotridge added.

“If we can do that one time for everybody this year, it will be a huge success story,” he said.


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Cardinal Health bolsters clinic program


INDIANAPOLIS —Many industry observers may not be familiar with Corner Care Clinic, but that is likely to change as Cardinal Health has formed an alliance with, and is a minority investor in, the clinic operator.

Cardinal Health teamed up with Indianapolis-based clinic operator MindGent Healthcare Clinic’s Corner Care Clinic to open in October 2006 the first retail-based clinic. Today, there are 27 walk-in clinic locations.

Corner Care Clinic operates locations in Indiana, Ohio, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois and New York.

The clinics are located within select Medicine Shoppe, Medicap and independent Leader pharmacies, as well as two Kerr Drug stores and, coming in September, two Drug Fair locations.

The goal: to open an additional six to 12 clinics by year’s end. Going forward, Corner Care Clinic would like to open between 60 and 100 clinics a year.

“When we first made the decision to throw our hat into the ring…we wanted to find a partner whom we felt shared the same vision and mission that we had,” health care veteran and president and chief executive officer of Corner Care Clinic, Julie Beckner, told Drug Store News.

Signifying not only a shift in the health care industry toward convenient health and wellness offerings, but also signifying the key role Corner Care Clinic will play in the Cardinal Health portfolio, Corner Care Clinic participated in the Cardinal Health Retail Business Conference held last month at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

As is common of the acute care retail clinic model, Corner Care Clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners that treat such common ailments as strep throat and pink eye, and also provide vaccinations, physicals and screenings for such conditions as diabetes and blood pressure. The average cost ranges between $55 and $75.

Aiming to educate its independent pharmacies on the opportunity, Cardinal Health introduced the clinics, as well as other offerings, at the 18th annual RBC. Touted as the latest addition to Leader Total Pharmacy Manager, Cardinal’s suite of services to help independent pharmacies bolster revenue and drive productivity, the in-store clinics provide yet another way for its retail pharmacy customers to expand their health care reach and better serve their communities. Currently, more than 3,000 independents are part of Cardinal’s Leader pharmacy network.

Meanwhile, Corner Care Clinic has been working to bolster its management team, last month announcing two key executive moves.

Assuming the role of corporate director of marketing for Corner Care Clinic is Mike Milakis. Previously, he served as owner, president and creative director for M&M Advertising for 11 years. During his career, Milakis has worked with more than 50 different hospital, insurance, pharmaceutical and health care-related clients, including Eli Lilly,I.U. Medical Center and University of Chicago Hospitals.

Corner Care Clinic also has promoted Mark Rollins to chief medical officer of the company. Previously, he served as Corner Care Clinic’s medical director.

Prior to joining Corner Care Clinic, Rollins, a board-certified physician, served as chief of medicine at Marion General Hospital in Marion, Ind.

In a recent interview with Drug Store News, Keith Cook, who joined Medicine Shoppe International in late 2006 as vice president of pharmacy solutions, said the partnership is important to Cardinal Health’s MSI division because there is a real “need in the community” for convenient and affordable acute care.

“There are some counties where there is not even a hospital within a 30-mile radius of our store. So ER visits are very difficult for some of our regular patients that we see every day. And there’s also the current health care situation in America. It isn’t easy to get in and get an appointment immediately when you need minor care. So the need was there, and it fit very nicely into our business model,” Cook said. “The reason we like [Corner Care Clinic] as a partner is that they do a very good job of working with the local physician community, and that was really important to us.”

Added Beckner, stressing the importance of working with the local medical community, “[Corner Care Clinics] addresses a real need, but we also are a physician advocate.”


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Respiratory drug sales climb as asthma, COPD cases rise

BY Laura Klepacki

The global respiratory drug market is projected to exceed sales of $44 billion by 2010, according to market research firm Kalorama Information.

As the incidence of lung and breathing-related illnesses climb around the world, drug sales in the segment have continued to rise as well. Kalorama researchers report that sales have increased at the rate of 11 percent annually, from $19 billion in 2000 to $32 billion in 2005.

Asthma, a leading respiratory disease, was diagnosed in 19.8 million people in the United States in 2003, with 11 million experiencing an asthma attack in the previous year, according to the most current statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. In 2002, asthma accounted for 12.7 million doctor visits, 1.2 million hospital outpatient visits, 1.9 million emergency room visits and 484,000 hospitalizations.

An illness that affects the lungs, asthma is the most common long-term disease of children. Symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and nighttime or early morning coughing. Asthma always is present, but a patient will suffer attacks only when the lungs are stimulated. Triggers include: tobacco smoke, dust mites, air pollution, cockroaches and their droppings, furry pets and mold. Also, physical exertion, high emotional states or extreme temperatures can lead to an attack.

Treatments fall into two categories: long-term control drugs and quick-relief drugs, such as inhalers. Asthma cannot be cured.

Meanwhile, another respiratory disease that often is confused with asthma is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and that afflicts another 20 million Americans.

Top-ranked treatments for asthma and COPD posted strong global sales results last year. Advair grew 11.7 percent to $6 billion, Singulair climbed 20 percent to $3.6 billion, Zyrtec rose 12 percent to $2.5 billion, Spiriva shot up 48.5 percent to $1.6 billion, Pulmicort rose 11.2 percent to $1.3 billion and Flixotide increased 4.5 percent to $1.2 billion, according to market research firm Wood Mackenzie.


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