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Medco gets wind of risks associated with LABAs

BY Alaric DeArment

FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J. —The class of drugs known as long-acting beta agonists can provide many benefits to patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but medical experts have long warned of dangers in using the drugs alone. Still, according to data from a study last month, many patients continue using LABAs as a monotherapy despite the risks.

The Medco Research Institute and the Medco Pulmonary Therapeutic Resource Center, research arms of pharmacy benefit manager Medco Health Solutions, found that close to one-third of patients using LABAs use them without other controller medications. And this, according to experts, puts them at risk of worsening disease symptoms or even death. LABAs include such drugs as GlaxoSmithKline’s Serevent (salmeterol xinafoate) and Foradil (formoterol fumarate) by Merck and Novartis.

The researchers found that 31% of patients prescribed either drug didn’t use them together with controller medications, but those who received treatment from an allergist or pulmonologist were 43% less likely to use a LABA as a monotherapy than those who received treatment from a general practitioner. The study included patients who had continuous prescription drug coverage during 2009 but excluded patients with COPD while calculating the number of patients using LABAs alone by excluding those with overlapping days’ supplies of inhaled corticosteroids or leukotriene modifiers.

“We’ve identified a gap in care that needs to be shared with the medical community in order to improve patient health and reduce the rate of preventable hospitalizations and emergency room visits,” Medco Therapeutic Resource Centers president Peter Juhn said. “This study demonstrates that specialized care can significantly improve clinical outcomes when treating patients with asthma.”

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health, recommended in its asthma treatment guidelines that patients using LABAs should combine them with inhaled corticosteroids or leukotriene modifiers, and the Food and Drug Administration requires warnings on the drugs’ product labels advising against using them alone. Asthma attacks cause half a million hospitalizations, 217,000 visits to the emergency room and more than 4,000 deaths, according to Medco.

“Whether physicians are not following the prescribing guidelines for LABAs, or patients are not filling the prescriptions for their other controller medications, taking LABAs alone presents a significant safety risk for asthma patients, especially for children,” Medco Pulmonary Therapeutic Resource Center national practice leader Luis Salmun said. “Patients may feel like they are getting symptom relief from using LABAs alone, but they are actually masking the underlying inflammation, which could put them at serious risk for complications from the disease.”

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NACDS puts a new spin on Meet the Market

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN DIEGO This year the National Association of Chain Drug Stores introduced two new features to its Meet the Market format. First, NACDS hosted a Meet the Market Presentation Template webinar twice prior to Meet the Market, in which NACDS introduced a meeting template that succinctly captured all of the information retailers typically use to evaluate a new product or company.

Also new to Meet the Market were the booths of 10 service companies — trade media and professional education, merchandising consultants and marketing/media information companies — which afforded an opportunity for new and smaller suppliers to meet with these organizations.

“New companies have a need not only to meet with retailers, obviously, they have a need for their business,” noted Jim Whitman, NACDS SVP meetings and conferences. Another ongoing improvement is the productivity within each meeting, Whitman added. “We keep refining the match, the appointments,” he said.

This year, the Meet the Market format — in which smaller and new suppliers have 10-minute meetings with their category buyers — represented more than 8,000 face-to-face pre-arranged appointments.

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Retail clinic growth slowing down? Not a chance

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT The news that Target is looking to expand its retail-based clinic business this year is yet one more indicator that reports of the demise of retail clinic growth have been greatly exaggerated.

(THE NEWS: Target to expand its retail clinic presence. For the full story, click here)

As the article states, Target, which opened its first clinic in 2006, is looking to open up eight new locations this September. It already operates 28 locations in Minnesota and Maryland.

It wasn’t so long ago — April to be exact — that CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic indicated that it could double its current number of clinics in five years.

Why the growth? Well, aside from the aging population and a shortage of primary care physicians, a major catalyst is healthcare reform, which will mean that 32 million people who currently are uninsured will have healthcare coverage. With emergency rooms already overflowing, and primary care physicians already over-extended, having a retail clinic nearby where patients can receive convenient, quality and affordable health care will only become increasingly important.

Meanwhile, RediClinic, which has 22 clinics in H-E-B stores in Houston and Austin, Texas, is cranking up its marketing efforts and has tapped former Duane Reade executive Jeff Thompson as VP marketing. Thompson will be responsible for RediClinic’s consumer and partner marketing activities, including developing and implementing strategic customer acquisition/retention programs, new product delivery and brand strategy.

Thompson most recently served as VP marketing for Duane Reade.

Clearly, there continues to be significant growth opportunities for clinics — both in terms of the number of clinic locations and the scope of services offered within the clinics. As mentioned earlier, there are 32 million reasons why the growth will be quite dramatic.

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