Hy-Vee: Expanding its health efforts
Hy-Vee is well-known for its health-and-wellness commitment, and the supermarket chain has been taking efforts up a few notches recently with new and expanded programs.
The Iowa-based company, which operates food stores in eight Midwestern states, has been growing programs for immunizations and in-store health clinics, while promoting in-store healthy foods’ departments and dietitians to support customer needs.
“The company prides itself on its dedication to health and wellness,” Kristin Williams, SVP and chief health officer, told DSN.
She said the retailer “offers customers the convenience of easily seeking healthcare services for a variety of medical conditions or guidance for how to achieve their personal health goals in our very own stores.”
The company has been partnering with local healthcare providers to open in-store retail health clinics. In the most recent fiscal year, Hy-Vee worked with local healthcare providers to open 29 new clinics. As of March, Hy-Vee operated 55 clinics across its market areas, and more are slated to open in 2017 and beyond.
“It’s a natural fit for local healthcare providers and Hy-Vee employees to work together,” Williams said. “From the provider’s nurse practitioners and doctors to Hy-Vee’s in-store dietitians, chefs, health concierges and pharmacists, our overall goal is to help our customers get and stay healthy.”
Hy-Vee operates 250 pharmacies, which include Hy-Vee Drugstores and satellite locations. Amber Pharmacy, Hy-Vee’s specialty pharmacy, operates in seven locations.
Hy-Vee recently expanded the range of vaccines it provides at its retail pharmacies. That move followed recognition that a growing number of customers were getting flu shots at the retailer’s pharmacies.
The company drew recent recognition on its specialty pharmacy side. Two recent quarterly surveys by Zitter Health Insights revealed that Hy-Vee’s Amber Pharmacy drew the highest ratings for patient satisfaction for its pharmacists, technicians, nurses and customer service representatives, as well as the highest patient loyalty score of all specialty pharmacies surveyed in the United States.
Hy-Vee has been just as active on the food side of its operation, where more than 200 dietitians play leading roles.
“Hy-Vee dietitians help customers focus on health and wellness by providing biometric screenings, one-on-one counseling, cooking classes, grocery store tours, culinary demonstrations and nutrition programs,” Williams said.
These dietitians offer a wide range of classes to customers, including the company’s Begin program, which focuses on managing weight loss, and the new Simple Fix program that enables shoppers to prepare healthy, convenient meals they can take home and easily serve.
Hy-Vee also is launching two new programs: Begin 4 Kids and Begin for Diabetes. The kids’ program is a four-week effort that emphasizes food groups, activity and healthy eating, while the diabetes initiative is a 10-week healthy lifestyle and weight management program for people with diabetes. In the near future, the chain’s dietitians will unveil a new program to help prediabetic individuals lead healthier lives, Williams said. Recently Hy-Vee announced an exclusive arrangement to carry actor and producer Mark Wahlberg’s new sports nutrition line, called Performance Inspired.
Also on the food side, Hy-Vee now operates 179 HealthMarket departments, which cater to customers seeking organic, natural, gluten-free and allergy-friendly foods.
Hy-Vee also launched a new in-store magazine, Hy-Vee Balance, focusing on health, personal care, fitness, food and cooking.
2017 looks brighter for efficiency of FDA-drug approval process
Although 2016 saw the Food and Drug Administration approve only 22 new drugs compared with 45 approvals in 2015 and the lowest tally since 2010, many in the pharmaceutical arena remain optimistic that this year will see a reversal of that trend.
The passage of the 21st Century Cures Act last winter and the number of drugs already approved by the FDA this year, they said, give hope to 2017 being a banner year for innovative new therapies hitting the market.
“Cures is very long and broadly covers a good deal of ground,” Mark Senak, a lawyer and author of the blog Eye on FDA, said earlier this year about the legislation that President Obama signed into law in mid-December. “[It will] speed up the pathway for approvals, particularly for rare diseases, and reduce the regulatory burden industry faces in getting new products into the marketplace.”
The bill, which allocates nearly $5 billion for medical research, also gives the FDA about $500 million to help it develop tools to improve the efficiency of the drug-approval process. It also encourages the FDA to consider pieces of information in its approval process in addition to traditional clinical trials, including what lawmakers call “real world evidence,” as well as the biomarkers often used in studies in place of outcomes that are more difficult to measure.
Many of the branded drugs that get approved this year are expected to be first-of-their kind medications and therapies that provide patients with more effective alternatives.
Last month, for instance, the FDA approved Ocrevus, the first treatment for patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis — the most common form of the disease. In addition, the drug, developed by Roche’s Genentech unit, has shown that it can slow the progression of primary progressive MS, a more severe type of the disease.
“The current research pipeline shows that the future of biopharmaceutical innovation has never been more promising for patients in need,” Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America director of public affairs Andrew Powaleny said in January. “There are currently more than 7,000 medicines in development, of which more than 1,700 are in phase III trials — meaning they are in late-stage studies.”
Meanwhile, this year is expected to see a host of new generic medications emerge as manufacturers take advantage of expiring patents on several highly prescribed drugs, including Pfizer’s erectile dysfunction drug Viagra; Teva Pharmaceuticals’ asthma medication Proair HFA; Merck and Schering Plough’s cholesterol drug Vytorin; and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s HIV medicine Reyataz.
According to the pharmacy benefits management company Corporate Pharmacy Services, 17 new generics are expected to get FDA approval this year with another 13 slated for approval in 2018.
Missouri final state to pass prescription drug pricing database legislation
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s State Senate passed legislation to make it the final state to adopt a prescription drug pricing database. The bill would create a database pharmacists and doctors could check to see if patients have recently filled or been prescribed addictive medications.
According to the Missourian, state senators voted 22-9 in favor of approving the measure intended to help ease the state’s growing opioid epidemic. However, because of changes made by Senators to the bill, it must head back to the state’s House of Representatives for review.
"People are going to avoid those addictions because doctors are going to have information that may catch them before they get too far down the road that they can't go back," said Sen. Dave Schatz, the newspaper reported.
The news outlet added Missouri has long been the only holdout in creating such a program due to “fierce criticism by some state lawmakers who have privacy concerns about keeping medical information in a database.”