PHARMACY

Genzyme (again) turns down Sanofi-Aventis

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Biotech company Genzyme still is saying “no thanks” to French drug maker Sanofi-Aventis’ tender offer of $18.5 billion, or $69 per share, to acquire it, saying the offer “substantially undervalues” the company.

The offer has been extended until Jan. 11, Genzyme said.

Sanofi has sought to buy Genzyme since August. Genzyme, based in Cambridge, Mass., specializes in treatments for rare genetic disorders, such as Fabry disease and Gaucher disease.

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PHARMACY

Walgreens unveils benefits of Dimensions project

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Pharmacists who intervene with diabetes patients are having a clear and positive impact on clinical outcomes, a new study from Walgreens has found.

In a presentation this week, for the first time in public, two Walgreens healthcare leaders unveiled the results of a groundbreaking pilot project on pharmacy-based diabetic care. Walgreens launched the project, called Dimensions, at its worksite pharmacies in 2008. Its results were successful enough to spawn another long-term health initiative for the broader community, launched in January of this year and called Walgreens Optimal Wellness.

The two executives, Walgreens chief medical officer Cheryl Pegus, and director of health outcomes and analytics Michael Taitel, unveiled the findings of the Dimensions pilot at the World Research Group’s Diabetes Prevention and Management Forum for Health Plans and Employers. The study, they said, established that diabetes patients, who participated in a disease management program, leveraging face-to-face interactions with a pharmacist, demonstrated high levels of patient engagement [more than 90%] and significantly improved clinical outcomes.

“Chronic [diseases are] arguably the most pressing areas of concern for health care in the United States, and diabetes is one of the most difficult and most costly chronic conditions to manage,” Pegus told the gathering. “Walgreens recognized that with its unrivaled ability to reach patients where they both work and live, [its] diverse team of 70,000 healthcare-service providers and [its] understanding of the power of face-to-face interactions on health outcomes, we had a unique opportunity to help patients learn how to live healthier and better lives.”

Dimensions centered on Walgreens working with employers at its worksite pharmacies. To that end, specially trained Walgreens pharmacists provided patients and employees diabetes education at the sites, including initial one-on-one consultations and monthly follow-ups.

The results of the program “showed significant patient improvement,” Walgreens reported, “as the percent of participants with combined HbA1C, blood pressure and cholesterol values at clinical guideline goals increased from 11.8% to 21.8%.” That marked an 85% improvement, Pegus noted.

Equally striking was the retention rate. At 18 months, more than 90% of patients stayed engaged in the program, according to Pegus and Taitel. Patients also had “exceptionally positive” reactions to the pharmacist interventions, the Walgreens execs said, reporting 100% overall satisfaction with the pilot. Indeed, they noted, several patients called the program “life altering.”

The positive results of Dimensions led directly to the launch of the community-focused Walgreens Optimal Wellness program, the executives told forum attendees. That effort was launched in January in four markets, and since has been expanded to five more markets as a self-care educational program for people with Type 2 diabetes. The program builds on Dimensions, Pegus said, by emphasizing patient engagement and a personalized approach to adherence and self-management with a personal health coach at multiple Walgreens locations through a “hub and spoke” model.

In April of this year, Walgreens took the concept further, partnering with UnitedHealth Group and the YMCA of the USA to launch the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance. Walgreens called that effort a comprehensive collaboration to treat and manage diabetes.

”The success we have seen so far with Optimal Wellness underscores the type of pharmacy, health and wellness initiative that Walgreens is increasingly exploring as we look for innovative ways to help address areas of unmet patient need,” Pegus said. “We are excited to expand this program to additional communities and disease states and build on this momentum to continue leveraging our broad offerings.”

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Target shows it is on health, wellness track

BY Jim Frederick

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Target’s pharmacy division got a big boost early this month when the Industrial Designers Society of America named its ClearRx bottle for prescription drugs the Design of the Decade. The award — coupled with another J.D. Power customer satisfaction award earlier this year — are affirmation that the 1,752-store big-box giant is on the right track as it renews its niche in health and wellness.

(THE NEWS: Target’s ClearRx named Design of the Decade. For the full story, click here)

ClearRx is a well-conceived, carefully crafted package aimed at making it as easy as possible for patients to identify their medicines, comply with the dosage regimen and avoid confusion. The wide, flat face on the bottle gives plenty of room to display cautionary information about the drug inside, and bottles feature bigger print for seniors and others who can’t easily read the fine print. Target even offers, for free, a card-sized magnifier that fits in a slot on the bottle, behind the patient information card.

Another innovation: For multiperson households, ClearRx bottles come with personalized, color-coded ID rings for each family member to prevent medicine mix-ups.

The appearance in 2005 of ClearRx at Target’s pharmacies was a design breakthrough in its own right, but it also signaled the start of a long campaign by the upscale discount giant to revitalize its health-and-wellness image and drive revenue growth at its pharmacies. The chain is courting pharmacy customers with a slew of wellness programs, service offerings and discounts.

Behind that effort is company research that showed that on average, Target pharmacy customers spend three times more in the store than those who don’t use one of the chain’s nearly 1,600 pharmacies.

Thus, Target increasingly is tying its service message and in-store promotions with its pharmacy offerings. Among the most recent examples is an expanded discount program for the Target REDcard, launched in mid-October, which offers customers a one-day discount coupon, good throughout the store, every time they fill five prescriptions at a Target pharmacy.

The chain also actively is promoting its flu shot capabilities and disease management programs for diabetes, and in November conducted a month-long “Celebrate Smoke-free” campaign at its pharmacies to help customers kick the habit. The effort provided “greater visibility to Target pharmacy and Target clinic healthcare professionals, who can offer support, smoking-cessation materials and advice,” according to the company.

Meanwhile, Target continues to aggressively promote such healthcare products as diabetes supplies in its circulars, along with its ongoing $4 pricing for 30-day supplies of many commonly prescribed generic drugs. Target also offers 90-day supplies of those me-too medicines at $10.

And the company has invested in pharmacy technology upgrades to boost efficiencies in the dispensing process and drive a more integrated approach to patient therapy and outcomes.

Target’s efforts to build customer recognition and sales at its pharmacies clearly are having an impact. Earlier this year, company officials justly were touting the 2009 customer satisfaction survey from J.D. Power and Associates. For the third year in a row, the chain scored highest in pharmacy satisfaction levels among mass merchandise retailers.

On a broader front, Target also was a founding member in 2009 of the Alliance to Make US Healthiest, a coalition whose goal is to boost the physical and emotional health of U.S. citizens within homes, schools and the workplace.

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