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McKesson Corp. showcases its strengths at conference

BY Jim Frederick

BOSTON

The more than 2,000 independent pharmacy owners who gathered here for McKesson Corp.’s 2007 Pharmacy Strategies Conference and Trade Show got repeated pats on the back for their continued dedication to patient care and community pharmacy, promises of more help to come from the health care services and distribution giant, and an open invitation to join the company’s exploding franchised pharmacy network, Health Mart.

For the second year in a row, the fast-growing franchise operation emerged as the central focus and message of the four-day event. Health Mart has clearly become McKesson’s retail pharmacy expansion vehicle and vision for the future of independent pharmacy since company managers clarified its core mission and merchandising strategy and debuted a striking new store design and pharmacy prototype for Health Mart two years ago at the same conference. And again for the 2007 gathering, McKesson constructed a full-scale, working model of its latest Health Mart design on the show’s trade floor for conference-goers.

The goal: to encourage more of the company’s roughly 8,000 independent pharmacy customers to join the Health Mart franchise, and to adopt some or all of the store design, pharmacy services, technology and merchandising elements Health Mart embodies.

A striking number of those customers already have. “Since last year’s pharmacy conference, the number of pharmacies in our Health Mart franchise alone has grown over 400 percent, to over 1,500 stores across this country,” McKesson Corp. president Paul Julian said at the opening of the conference July 8.

Signs of McKesson’s growth abounded at the conference, Julian asserted. For instance, he told independent pharmacy owners, “Nearly 25 percent of you have joined McKesson in just the past two years.”

Julian ticked off other signs of progress. “Today, we’re clearly number one in the purchasing of generics…number one in pharmacy management systems…[and] in pharmacy automation through our ownership stake in Parata [Systems],” the technology and information systems provider McKesson acquired last year.

“The signs of our progress are unmistakable,” Julian asserted. “Six years ago we were number three out of three [among the biggest companies] in the pharmacy wholesaling business. Today, we are number one.”

Julian credited “the industry’s best end-to-end solutions” for its customer segments—particularly the single-store and small-chain independent pharmacy owners—for that progress.

Nevertheless, said Julian, “We recognize the challenges [independents] face. Reimbursements continue to get tighter, and the paperwork continues to pile up. We know we have to keep getting better every day.”

John Hammergren, chairman and CEO, called independent pharmacy owners “the heartbeat of our business,” but noted that the McKesson’s broad business platform—which encompasses many aspects of health care beyond community pharmacy—gives it “a 360-degree view” of health care. “That gives us an opportunity to look at ways to transform health care and to dramatically impact the cost and…the quality of health care.”

Among the company’s other strengths: a major hospital supply business, “over 600 nurses working for McKesson in providing disease management services,” and “the world’s largest health care information systems company.”

One highlight of the event: an announcement by company leaders of plans to launch a Medication Therapy Management pilot program this September in Wisconsin.

To launch the effort, the health services and distribution giant will partner with the Wisconsin Pharmacy Quality Collaborative [WPQC], an ad hoc group of pharmacists and health plan payers organized by the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin. The goal, company leaders announced, will be to strengthen communication among a patient’s key care providers—including pharmacists, payers and physicians—to improve patient health outcomes by increasing medication adherence and lowering the frequency of adverse drug events.

McKesson said it will apply its massive software and pharmacy-support resources to the effort, and that participating pharmacists would be reimbursed by participating payers and health plan sponsors for providing MTM services. Researchers and staff from the University of California at San Francisco pharmacy school will document the results in a patient-outcomes study in an effort to establish the value of pharmacist-provided MTM services.

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Jeffrey Dunn joins American Greetings’ board

BY Doug Desjardins

CLEVELAND American Greetings has appointed Jeffrey Dunn to its board of directors where he’ll fill a vacancy for a term set to expire in 2008. Dunn most recently served as president of Nickelodeon Film Enterprises and as chief operating officer of Nickelodeon Networks Group.

“We are delighted to have Jeff join us,” said chief executive officer Zev Weiss. “American Greetings will benefit from his business acumen and expertise, particularly with regard to digital content and licensing.” Dunn graduated from Harvard and went on to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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FujiFilm Offers Pre-Paid Mailers

BY Doug Desjardins

VALHALLA, N.Y. FujiFilm has debuted pre-paid mailers that make it easier for customers to have their film processed and delivered to their homes. The new program allows customers to buy the pre-paid mailers when they purchase their Fuji film or single-use camera.

“This program offers the consumer value and convenience,” said Rafi Haqqani, senior product manager for one-time-use cameras for Fujifilm. “It brings quality Fujicolor processing right to the consumers’ doorstep with easy-to-use postage-paid mailers.”

The suggested retail price for the pre-paid film mailer is $15.99 and the pre-paid single-use camera mailer is $17.99. Prints come in the standard 4 x 6 size and are mailed back in 7-10 days.

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