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Jewel-Osco adds incentives for Rx customers

BY Doug Desjardins

CHICAGO —Supervalu continues to use its powerful Jewel-Osco banner as a testing ground for new programs, unveiling a new prescription discount program in July and plans to open a small-format store this fall.

The Prescription Plus plan now in place at 184 Jewel-Osco stores in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa, gives customers a 10 percent discount coupon for every five prescriptions they fill at an in-store pharmacy. The coupons can be redeemed at checkout for purchases made in the supermarket.

“Prescription Plus is Jewel-Osco pharmacy’s way of responding to the tough economic challenges many of our customers face today,” said Tom Rousonelos, vice president of Osco pharmacy operations. “Jewel-Osco aims to offer the most value-added pharmacy experience available.”

The plan also will count transferred prescriptions and refills toward the five prescriptions needed for the coupon. In addition to prescriptions, the purchase of other services offered at Jewel-Osco pharmacies, including immunizations and screenings, will apply to Prescription Plus discounts.

Supervalu also plans to debut a new smaller-format supermarket in Chicago this fall. Dubbed “Urban Fresh,” the 16,000-square-foot store will open in the Lincoln Park section of Chicago and emphasize ready-to-go meals along with a selection of fresh meats, seafood and produce.

“The smaller-store format is an exciting complement to our larger, more traditional grocery stores,” said Keith Nielsen, president of Jewel-Osco, which currently has 32 stores in the Chicago area. “We hope to learn as much as possible from this effort, paying close attention to customer feedback.” Supervalu has indicated the Urban Fresh format will not include a pharmacy.

Urban Fresh will be the latest in a growing number of small-format grocery stores launched in recent months. Tesco debuted its first Fresh & Easy stores in the United States last year and currently has 70 stores in Southern California and the Southwest. Safeway opened its first “The Market” store in Long Beach, Calif. in May and Wal-Mart plans to open small “Marketside” grocery stores in Phoenix this fall.

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Court rules against Watson in Naprelan case

BY Drew Buono

CORONA, Calif. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled that Watson Pharmaceuticals’ naproxen sodium extended-release tablets, a generic version of the pain medication Naprelan, infringes the brand drug manufacturer’s patent, Watson announced Wednesday.

Elan initially brought the suit in October 1998 after Andrx filed an application for a generic version of the drug. In March 2002, the District Court ruled that Elan’s ‘320 patent was invalid. Watson acquired Andrx in November 2006.

In May 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the District Court’s finding of invalidity and remanded the case for further proceedings. In January 2005, Elan filed a related case against Andrx in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida alleging that Andrx’s generic drug infringes the patent and is seeking damages for willful infringement. In late 2005, the parties completed briefing the District Court on the validity of the patent and whether Andrx’s product infringes it, and the matter has been under submission to the District Court since then.

Watson said it intends to appeal the ruling.

Watson’s naproxen sodium tablets had sales of $4 million over the year ending June 30, according to IMS data.

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Medicare officials predict lower 2009 Part D costs than expected

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON Monthly premiums for Medicare’s Part D prescription drug program next year will be lower than expected, Medicare officials announced Thursday.

Based on bids submitted by Part D plans, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimated that the average monthly premium that recipients will pay for standard Part D coverage will be $28 – lower than the $44.12 predicted in 2003.

At the same time, it is $3 more than the premium for this year, mainly because of rising drug costs and higher plan estimates for catastrophic coverage and the phase-out of a CMS demonstration project.

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