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PBM improvement: That’s all, Foulkes

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT The news that Helena Foulkes will lead PBM product innovation and marketing at CVS Caremark is important, as Foulkes, the ExtraCare architect, is widely regarded as one of the most visionary marketers in modern drug store retailing.

(THE NEWS: Foulkes to lead PBM product innovation, marketing at CVS Caremark. For the full story, click here)

The company has one of the largest and most successful retail loyalty card programs in the country with more than 64 million active ExtraCare cardholders. Now Foulkes is bringing her considerable talents and creative vision to a side of the business that, executives have admitted, could benefit from a stronger, clearer message to payers.

Aside from generating total revenues that rose 13% to a record $98.7 billion in 2009 and income from continuing operations that climbed nearly 11% to $3.7 billion, several highlights fiscal 2009 included — but certainly was not limited to — the repositioning of its sales message to focus first on its PBM capabilities. As reported by Drug Store News in late 2009, CVS Caremark acknowledged a need to fine-tune its messaging to the payer community.

"Our message early on was not clear, to be honest. It was not simple for benefit managers to understand," CVS Caremark chairman, president and CEO Tom Ryan had told analysts during an earnings call. "It focused a little too much on the retail side of the business as opposed to a coordinated effort."

The story may have resonated with CEOs in the corner offices of many of the companies CVS Caremark was pitching its integrated model to, but for the human resources execs and benefit managers who make key decisions around plan design, the larger message was getting lost in translation.

Based on Foulkes’ track record, you would have to say she is more than up to the task.

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Shoppers Drug Mart sees growth in Q1

BY Allison Cerra

TORONTO One of Canada’s largest drug store chains reported a 5.7% increase in its first-quarter sales.

First-quarter sales increased to C $2.32 billion ($2.31 billion), compared with the same period last year. Shoppers also saw a 3.1% rise in same-store sales, and a 5.1% spike in front-end sales, totaling nearly C $1.17 billion ($1.16 billion).

Meanwhile, first-quarter net earnings rose 8.2% to $116 million or 53 cents per share (diluted) from $107 million or 49 cents per share (diluted) a year ago. Shoppers said this result was driven by top line growth, improved purchasing synergies and a continued emphasis on cost reduction, productivity and efficiency.

Commenting on the quarter, Jurgen Schreiber, president and CEO stated, “We are pleased with our first quarter results, especially in light of the fact that we experienced a weaker cough, cold and flu season compared to a year ago.  In these challenging times for community pharmacy, particularly in the Province of Ontario, I am extremely proud of our Associate-owners and their teams as they work through this difficult period without ever losing sight of what matters most – the health and well-being of our valued patients and customers.”

During the quarter, 27 drug stores were opened or acquired, 11 of which were relocations, and one smaller drug store was closed. At quarter-end, Shoppers Drug Mart owned 1,303 stores, comprised of 1,234 drug stores (1,183 Shoppers Drug Mart/Pharmaprix stores and 51 Shoppers Simply Pharmacy/Pharmaprix Simplement Sante stores), 63 Shoppers Home Health Care stores and six Murale stores.

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FDA approves Dendreon’s Provenge

BY Allison Cerra

SILVER SPRING, Md. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new biotech drug for prostate cancer made by Seattle-based biotech company Dendreon, the agency said Thursday.

The FDA approved Provenge (sipuleucel-T), a therapy that treats advanced prostate cancer by stimulating the patient’s own immune system. Each dose is manufactured by obtaining a patient’s immune cells from the blood using a process called leukapheresis. The cells are then exposed to a protein found in most prostate cancers and then returned to the patient’s body. The treatment is given in a three-dose schedule at two-week intervals.

“The availability of Provenge provides a new treatment option for men with advanced prostate cancer, who currently have limited effective therapies available,” FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research acting director Karen Midthun said.

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