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Periscope introduces Flip Cover+Lights

BY Allison Cerra

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. Periscope has introduced an integrated reading light and deluxe cover for e-readers.

Periscope’s Flip Cover+Lights is available in two versions — one that’s compatible with both the Amazon Kindle 2 (6-inch screen) and Barnes & Noble Nook e-readers and a second larger version that is compatible with the Amazon Kindle DX e-reader.

The new Flip Cover+Lights are available at the following suggested retail prices: $49.95 for the Kindle 2/Nook version and $59.95 for the larger Kindle DX version.

“As the market for e-readers grows and expands at an explosive rate, so too does the demand for e-reader covers and reading lights,” said Periscope president Eric Fisherman. “Covers and lights are essential components of the e-reader package and neither is included with a basic e-reader purchase. What’s more, all current e-readers are standardized on a screen technology that is not back lit, which makes the purchase of a reading light mandatory if the product is to be enjoyed in a low light environment.”

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FMAP extension: An investment and a money-saving venture

BY Jim Frederick

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT In these times of trillion-dollar spending bills and massive deficits, $16 billion may not seem like all that much. But it’s enough to throw another critical lifeline to states coping with the ever-rising costs of Medicaid health assistance to the poor and unemployed –– and to thousands of community pharmacies that have to provide prescription services to those millions of Americans.

(THE NEWS: Congress passes FMAP Medicaid extension; Pres. Obama’s signature expected soon. For the full story, click here)

With the support of both Maine’s Republican senators, Congress moved with uncharacteristic haste over the past week to pass a $26.1 billion supplemental spending bill, and the president immediately signed the measure into law. With that additional cash infusion, the states will share another $10 billion in federal money to prevent more layoffs of teachers. They’ll also get $16.1 billion to extend, until June 30, 2011, the enhanced federal medical assistance percentage known as FMAP.

It means that state Medicaid programs will have additional funds to cope with the flood of suddenly impoverished and out-of-work Americans whose jobs –– and employer-provided health benefits –– have gone up in smoke during this relentless economic maelstrom. In the words of the National Community Pharmacists Association, “The bill avoids the repercussions of allowing FMAP assistance from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to end on Dec. 31, 2010. With states experiencing continued losses and tax revenue and being obligated to balance their budgets, Medicaid cuts are in the offing without this extension.”

Those cuts, said NCPA’s acting EVP and CEO Doug Hoey, would “not be financially sustainable” for independent pharmacies “already working off of slim profit margins and that tend to serve a high percentage of Medicaid patients in underserved areas. For some, it would mean deciding to either limit or stop providing care to Medicaid patients altogether, which is the last thing that should be happening as the high rate of unemployment and underemployment forces more Americans to enroll in Medicaid.”

The $16.1 billion extension is also an investment, said Hoey and Steve Anderson, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, in reducing longer-term healthcare costs for those Medicaid beneficiaries. “Anything that hinders pharmacy access is counterproductive,” said Anderson, “because when patients do not take their medications correctly health suffers and long-term healthcare costs rise.”

Hoey agreed. “The money saved by cutting reimbursements to pharmacies in the present will be washed away in the future by more costly health care options having to be pursued by Medicaid patients,” he said.

The emergency spending bill also contains a lesser-known provision that Hoey said also will save state governments money long-term. “Also included was a new Average Manufacturer Price provision for generic prescription drugs,” NCPA noted. “It allows drug manufacturers to include non-retail pharmacy prices when calculating AMP for inhalation, infusion, instilled, implanted, or injectable drugs if they are not generally dispensed through retail pharmacies. As a result, states can collect manufacturer rebates on these drugs that are estimated to save $2 billion over 10 years.”

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A&P’s turnaround plan includes shuttering 25 stores

BY Antoinette Alexander

MONTVALE, N.J. A&P, which operates 429 stores and roughly 250 retail pharmacies, is shuttering 25 stores in five states as part of its turnaround strategy, the company announced on Friday.

The impacted stores include locations in close proximity to other company stores, those facing real estate and cost issues, and underperforming noncore stores. The store closures are expected to be completed in the company’s fiscal third quarter.

“As part of our turnaround, we have initiated a detailed review of our store footprint and have decided to close these 25 locations. While this was a very difficult decision that will unfortunately impact some of our customers, partners, communities and employees, these actions are absolutely necessary to strengthen A&P’s operating foundation and improve our performance going forward. We will help our affected colleagues pursue other positions across the Company should open positions be available,” stated A&P president and CEO Sam Martin.

In late July, the company announced the appointment of Martin as its new CEO. He succeeded Ron Marshall, who left the company after serving less than six months at the helm. The news came as the grocer reported a first quarter net loss of $122 million and a 7.2% drop in same-store sales.

Martin, who has more than three decades of management experience in the food retail industry, joined A&P from OfficeMax, where he served as COO since 2007. Prior to OfficeMax, Martin was COO for Wild Oats Markets through the company?s acquisition by Whole Foods. His experience also includes senior management roles at ShopKo Stores and Fred Meyer. With new leadership in place, the company indicated that it would be gearing up for a turnaround through a new operational and revenue-driven initiative.

The four key elements of the turnaround plan:

  • Improve the company’s customer value proposition through merchandising
  • Enhance the customer experience and drive clear brand identity
  • Lower structural and operating costs
  • Implement new financing initiatives to augment first quarter liquidity of $253 million.

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