PHARMACY

New hire at Walgreens underscores ‘real opportunity’

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Viewed through an Express Scripts lens, Walgreens’ new hire announcement — naming Robyn Peters to group VP managed market sales — may appear timely. The drug store chain is approaching an aggressive marketing overture behind its entire lineup of healthcare proficiency during the first pharmacy benefit manager selling season that it is no longer part of the Express Scripts pharmacy network.

Walgreens’ definitely has its timing down, but this has less to do with Express Scripts and more to do with the fact that Walgreens in the past year has streamlined all of its healthcare functionality under one umbrella so that they can proposition one cohesive retail healthcare offering to employers and payers, Walgreens executives told Drug Store News.

"As our healthcare strategy has been evolving … and the healthcare landscape has gotten more complex, we have been thinking long and hard about fully integrating our approach to the payer community, whether that be employers large and small, PBMs — large, medium and small — the health plans segment, the government segment, the health systems segment," said Jeff Berkowitz, Walgreens SVP pharmaceutical development and market access, in an interview following yesterday’s announcement. "We have an extraordinary value proposition to put a selling effort behind," he added. That selling proposition is everything from Walgreens’ entire "Well" experience — representing the integration of the front-end into that experience across Walgreens’ new store designs — to the retailer’s multichannel approach (think iPhone, Facebook, etc.). Behind the bench, in addition to a typical retail pharmacy experience (e.g., medication therapy management, healthcare counseling), Walgreens has 90-days-at-retail, a specialty pharmacy model and home infusion capability in several markets. There’s also Walgreens’ Take Care Health retail clinics and worksite clinics, along with Walgreens’ commitment to offering immunization services.

"What this integrated model allows us to do is go to the payer community and not just focus on the 10% or 8% that is the drug spend, but really partner with and focus with them on their entire medical spend and how to lower that," Berkowitz said. "That’s the real opportunity here."

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FDA approves Vertex’s Kalydeco for cystic fibrosis

BY Alaric DeArment

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Food and Drug Administration has approved a drug made by Vertex Pharmaceuticals for treating a rare form of cystic fibrosis, the agency said Tuesday.

The FDA announced the approval of Kalydeco (ivacaftor) for treating patients ages 6 years and older with CF who have a mutation called G551D in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator gene.

CF is a serious disorder that leads to an early death by causing thick mucus to build up in the lungs, digestive tract and other parts of the body, eventually leading to respiratory and digestive problems and such complications as infections and diabetes. Of the 30,000 people in the United States with the disease, about 1,200 are estimated to have the G551D mutation.

"Kalydeco is an excellent example of the promise of personalized medicine — targeted drugs that treat patients with a specific genetic makeup," FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg said.


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NACDS Foundation names winners of pharmacy student scholarship awards

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The charitable arm of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores has announced the 2011 recipients of its pharmacy student scholarship awards.

The NACDS Foundation said a total of 58 scholarships were awarded, representing 42 colleges and schools of pharmacy.

“These students exemplify one of the key missions of the NACDS Foundation in supporting continuing education programs that focus on patient-centered care in the community pharmacy setting,” NACDS Foundation president Kathleen Jaeger said. “As the future of pharmacy, we applaud these students for their academic accomplishments, and are delighted to honor these exceptional students with scholarships to assist them in continuing their pharmacy education.”

Click here to view a full list of the pharmacy scholarship winners.


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