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Poll: Adults plan to take steps to avoid flu but not other preventable diseases

BY Sierra McCleary-Harris

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. — Flu is at the top of the list of diseases older adults plan to ask about, according to results from a new Harris Interactive consumer awareness survey, sponsored by Merck. Most of the more than 600 surveyed adults age 60 years and older are at least somewhat likely to ask their healthcare professional about preventing the flu this year, and are significantly more likely to ask about this than prevention of such other potentially serious diseases as shingles.

Shingles, the common name for herpes zoster, is a disease caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once a person has chickenpox, the virus never leaves the body. At some point later in life this virus can reactivate and erupt as shingles — a red blistering rash that can be very painful. Any person who has had chickenpox is at risk for developing shingles, and 98% of adults in the United States have had chickenpox. A person’s risk for shingles increases as they get older, even if they are healthy. There are approximately 1 million cases of shingles each year in the United States, and the CDC estimates that one-in-three people will get shingles during their lifetime.

The survey also revealed the importance of physicians and pharmacists in encouraging vaccination. The survey indicated that 79% of older adults would be at least somewhat likely to receive the shingles vaccine if it were recommended by their doctor or pharmacist. Adults ages 60 years and older were 58% more likely to receive the shingles vaccine if recommended by their healthcare professional than to ask for the vaccine proactively (79% vs. 50%, respectively).

“It is important for people ages 60 [years] and older to get the shingles vaccine because it is the only way to help reduce the risk of getting shingles, but vaccination rates for shingles remain well below those for other adult vaccines against flu or pneumococcal disease,” said Eddy Bresnitz, executive director global medical affairs and policy in Merck’s vaccines division. “The results from this poll are a clear call to action for healthcare providers. It is important that a conversation about shingles takes place with their patients, both about the disease and vaccination against it.”

Merck’s shingles vaccine, Zostavax, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for adults ages 50 years and older to help prevent shingles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults ages 60 years and older get vaccinated to help prevent shingles. 

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Costco sales, profits increase in Q4

BY Alaric DeArment

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Costco Wholesale had sales of $31.8 billion in fourth quarter 2013 and $102.9 billion in fiscal year 2013, the club retailer said Wednesday.

The sales figures respectively represented a 1% and 6% increase over the same period last year. Profit for the quarter was $617 million, compared with $609 million in fourth quarter 2012, and $2.04 billion for the fiscal year, compared with $1.71 billion in fiscal year 2012.

In the company’s U.S. division, same-store sales increased by 5% during the quarter and 6% during the fiscal year; for the company as a whole, including stores overseas, fourth quarter and fiscal year 2013 comps respectively increased 5% and 6%, including the effects of foreign exchange rates and gas price fluctuations. For the month of October, U.S. comps increased 5%. Due to the effects of foreign exchange rates, international comps were flat, and comps for the chain overall increased by 3%.

The Issaquah, Wash.-based chain operates 638 stores, including 454 in the United States.

 

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Consumables, tobacco, BPC see big sales boosts at Family Dollar in FY2013

BY Alaric DeArment

MATTHEWS, N.C. — More than 1,000 new and relocated stores and an increase in a partnership with supply chain services firm McLane Co. were among the highlights in fourth quarter fiscal year 2013 at Family Dollar, the discount store chain said Wednesday.

The company opened 500 new stores during the fiscal year and relocated, renovated or expanded 830, and plans to open another 525 and redo 850 in fiscal year 2014. Chairman and CEO Howard Levine said in a conference call with financial analysts Wednesday morning that by the end of the fiscal year about 75% of the chain will "reflect a much-improved shopping experience."

Tobacco products are helping to drive trips at the 7,900-store chain, with Levine calling them a "nice byproduct" of its refrigerated and frozen food supply chain and relationship with McLane. Basket sizes have remained consistent since the company added tobacco. "The McLane relationship continues to be a key differentiator and accretive to earnings," president and COO Mike Bloom said during the call, adding that the average ticket with tobacco and other items is about $17. Bloom also said the company launched about 1,000 new SKUs in food, health and beauty. Total sales for private labels increased by about 10% and by 20% for private label consumables; the company plans to introduce about 200 private-label SKUs in fiscal year 2014.

On the logistics front, the company is rolling out a pallet delivery program, which streamlines freight delivery and restocking, placing goods on pallets according to department and allowing them to be cleanly stacked and taken directly to the sales floor. Bloom said the new system had increased efficiency and was popular with employees, and that it was planning on rolling it out to all its distribution centers. Meanwhile a new surveillance system called Checkpoint will offer "superior technology at a lower cost" and allow the tagging process to be taken upstream to distribution centers and suppliers, freeing up store employees to improve customer service.

The company reported sales of $2.5 billion, a 5.8% increase over fourth quarter 2012, as well as fiscal 2013 sales of $10.4 billion, an 11.4% increase over fiscal year 2012’s $9.3 billion. Profits were $102.2 million for the quarter and $443.6 million for the fiscal year, compared with $80.9 million and $422.2 million, respectively, during the same periods last year. Same-store sales in the fourth quarter were flat, as was average customer transaction value, while increasing by 3% for the fiscal year, thanks largely to increased customer traffic and ab increase in average customer transaction value. Overall, food, health and beauty aids, tobacco and other similar categories saw a 16.9% increase in sales during the year and an 8.3% increase during fourth quarter.

Looking ahead, Levine said the company would be cautious in fiscal year 2014 given the challenges faced by consumers, such as higher taxes, uncertainly in Washington and a tepid economy. The company expects a mid-single-digit increase in total net sales and a low-single-digit increase in same-store sales. In addition, CFO Mary Winston said the company expects the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to cost the company between $10 to $12 million, calling it "a big headwind."

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