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Merlo to shareholders: CVS Caremark well-positioned for future amid changing health care

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Caremark is on a mission to reinvent pharmacy and help people navigate a path to better health, and with its unique assets and robust team in place, the company is well-positioned to succeed in the midst of today’s changing healthcare environment. That was a key message that Larry Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Caremark, had for shareholders during Thursday morning’s Annual Shareholder Meeting.

Merlo with EVP of CVS Caremark and president of CVS/pharmacy Helena Foulkes and company co-founder Stanley Goldstein.

Merlo kicked off the meeting, which was held at the company’s headquarters in Woonsocket, R.I., by providing a 30,000-ft. view of some of its recent key achievements such as the acquisition of Coram, the specialty infusion services and enteral nutrition business unit of Apria Healthcare Group; its joint venture with Cardinal Health to form the largest generic sourcing entity in the United States; and the growing footprint of MinuteClinic locations. And, of course, the company’s recently announced move to stop selling tobacco products in all of its stores by Oct. 1 was a hot topic.

“We see this as the right decision at the right time,” said Merlo, referring to the company’s stance on tobacco products. Merlo said the move aligns with the goals of patients, providers and payers.

The bold decision has received an overwhelmingly positive response from many stakeholders, including several shareholders who voiced their support during Thursday’s gathering.

And, with a solid 2014 PBM season under its belt and strong positioning in the Medicare Part D market and Medicaid space, Merlo expressed further optimism for the future. He also noted the importance of specialty pharmacy and the key role that CVS Caremark is playing in this fast-growing space, which has been enhanced by its new Specialty Connect offering and the acquisition of Coram.

As previously reported, the company’s new Specialty Connect offering is on schedule to roll out in 2014. Analogous to the Maintenance Choice program, Specialty Connect integrates mail and retail capabilities to provide both greater choice and convenience for members.

Touching upon MinuteClinic, Merlo noted that it opened more than 150 locations during 2013, and currently has more than 800 clinics in 28 states and Washington, D.C. MinuteClinic, which has seen more than 20 million patient visits, staffs about 2,400 nurse practitioners and has inked more than 30 affiliations with major health systems.

In light of a growing shortage of primary care physicians sweeping the nation, MinuteClinic continues to work toward its longer-term goal of creating a national platform to support primary care. By 2017, MinuteClinic plans to operate about 1,500 clinics in 35 states.

In responding to a shareholder’s question on the company’s 2013 acquisition of Brazilian retailer Onofre, the eighth-largest drug chain in Brazil, Merlo said the company has several pilots underway that are “going well,” and he sees opportunity for further growth within the highly fragmented market.

Merlo said there also are opportunities for growth in additional international markets, but any growth would be in typical CVS fashion — measured and conservative.

Looking ahead, Merlo talked of CVS Caremark’s ability and agility to respond to the changing healthcare environment. Its ability refers to the “unmatched breadth of assets” and expertise to drive innovation. And its agility is rooted in its nimbleness to respond to those changes.

In summary, Merlo said the company remains optimistic about the growth prospects of the company and believes the changing healthcare environment is creating opportunities.

“Our unique model presents a sustainable competitive advantage,” Merlo said.

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Dove launches first premium skin care line

BY Ryan Chavis

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. — Global beauty brand Dove announced the launch of Dove DermaSeries, a range of cleansers and creams that can be used to care for extremely dry skin. DermaSeries marks the brand’s first premium skin care line.

Dove partnered with dermatologists for the line to provide critical insight into the science behind dry skin, including Dr. Ranella Hirsch, a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

"Dry skin is a pervasive problem that can manifest as redness, itching and uncomfortable tightness," Dr. Hirsch said. "It was such a wonderful opportunity to be able to help create a product line that specifically addresses these core concerns while delivering an exceptional user experience. I’m delighted to partner with Dove on the DermaSeries line and to have these products to recommend to my patients as a beautiful way to alleviate dry skin symptoms."

Dove DermaSeries contains ingredients like glycinate, a mild cleanser and stearic acid, which is a natural skin lipid that helps supply moisture that was lost during cleansing.

"We are proud of the technology and innovation behind Dove DermaSeries," said Steve Miles, global SVP at Unilever. "We believe the range offers genuinely superior skin benefits through products that both look and feel beautiful."

Dove DermaSeries will be sold at select retailers nationwide, beginning May 2014.

 

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Roundy’s reports net sales increase of 1.9% for Q1

BY Ryan Chavis

MILWAUKEE — Roundy’s on Wednesday reported financial results for the first quarter of 2014 ended March 29. The grocer saw net sales increase by 1.9% to $1 billion, and reported a net loss of $4.5 million compared with net income of $8.6 million.

“The first quarter was very active for our growth banner, Mariano’s, with the opening of five new stores. We continue to be pleased with Mariano’s very strong customer and community acceptance, as well as the banner’s performance to date,” said Robert A. Mariano, chairman, president and CEO of Roundy’s. “Four of these openings were former Dominick’s stores, and we opened an organic location in Lake Zurich, Ill. In April, we opened two more stores, and one yesterday in the city of Chicago, bringing the number of Mariano’s stores to 21. We are on schedule with the remaining eight acquired and organic openings this year.”

Adjusted net income for the company was $0.5 million compared with $8.6 million, and adjusted EBITDA was $34 million compared with $44 million. Mariano cited a number of issues that led to the company’s lackluster first-quarter performance.

“During the first quarter of 2014, we continued to see softness in our core markets. Competitive pressure, weak economic growth and weather-related issues affected our core markets in the quarter," Mariano said. "Despite difficult same-store sales comparisons in the first quarter, we remain steadfast with our Milwaukee market renewal initiatives as we continue to implement strategic changes in select core markets.”

 

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