PHARMACY

February flu benefit not as big as billed for Walgreens

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Thursday posted sales growth of 8.7% to $18.5 billion for its second quarter ended Feb. 28.

Comparable-store sales were up 4%, with a 4% increase across front-end same-store sales. Prescriptions filled grew by 4.5%; quarterly same-store pharmacy sales were not provided.

For the month of February, Walgreens’ pharmacy sales increased 6.4%, while comparable-pharmacy sales increased 2.7%, accounting for 64% of total sales for the month. Total front-end sales increased 10.6% in February, including 4.5 percentage points from Duane Reade stores. Comparable-store front-end sales increased 3.8% (no comparable sales figures include Duane Reade, Walgreens noted). Customer traffic in comparable stores increased 1.6%, while basket size increased 2.2%.

Sales in overall comparable stores increased 3.1%, falling just shy of projected consensus of 3.3% and well shy of Credit Suisse estimates of 4.5% released earlier this week. Credit Suisse calculated a 150 basis-point benefit from increased flu activity that would carry pharmacy comp sales higher by up to 5%. Walgreens recorded a 120 basis-point flu benefit, but only a 2.7% lift in overall pharmacy same-store sales, citing as much as a 120 basis point negative impact from fewer flu shots and the number of Midwest consumers who refilled their prescriptions earlier in January ahead of a severe February winter storm at the top of the month.

Flu shots administered season-to-date at pharmacies and Take Care Clinics totaled 6.4 million.

Overall February sales of $5.7 billion represented an increase of 7.8% from February 2010. Duane Reade stores, acquired in April 2010, contributed 2.7 percentage points to the total sales increase for the month, Walgreens reported.

Prescriptions filled at comparable stores increased 4.3% for the month of February.

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PHARMACY

Walgreens’ Rx refill, text alert apps embraced by pharmacy customers

BY Allison Cerra

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens’ latest mobile features have gained momentum among its pharmacy customers.

The drug store chain said that four months after debuting Refill by Scan for iPhone and Android platforms, the application now accounts for more than half of all prescription refills ordered through Walgreens mobile applications. What’s more, Walgreens’ prescription text alerts, which notify customers via text message when their prescriptions are ready, has surpassed 1 million subscribers since launching last year.

The company said its online and mobile applications have enhanced the customer experience.

“With Refill by Scan, prescription text alerts, unique photo features and the ability to shop or browse products all available on a mobile device, we’re adding new levels of choice, control and convenience for our rapidly growing numbers of mobile customers,” said Sona Chawla, Walgreens president of e-commerce.

Other features of the Walgreens mobile application suite include:

  • Access to prescription history;

  • The ability to order photo prints directly from a phone;

  • The ability to find the nearest Walgreens or Take Care Clinic;

  • The ability to browse products and check in-store availability; and

  • The ability to shop from a phone.

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Report: FDA warns of long-term PPI use

BY Alaric DeArment

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Food and Drug Administration is warning that long-term use of a class of drugs for gastroesophageal reflux disease may decrease levels of magnesium in the body and increase the risk of such side effects as seizures and heart rhythm problems, according to published reports.

The reports quoted the FDA as saying that in a quarter of cases of proton-pump inhibitors depleting magnesium from the body, use of magnesium supplements did not bring levels back to normal, and use of the drugs had to be stopped.

The warning included popular drugs, such as AstraZeneca’s Nexium (esomeprazole magnesium), Prilosec’s (omeprazole) and others, as well as over-the-counter PPIs.

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