Report: FDA may consider strengthening generic drug regulations
BETHESDA, Md. The Food and Drug Administration could decide that some generic drugs are not equivalent to their branded counterparts, according to published reports.
Bloomberg reported FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research director Janet Woodcock as saying in an interview that the agency was considering strengthening regulations on some generic drugs because some did not appear to work as well as the branded versions, based on statements from some patients and generic drug company employees. Woodcock had just given a speech at a technical conference organized by the FDA and the Generic Pharmaceutical Association.
In 2008, controversy arose amid anecdotal reports that patients taking generic drugs for epilepsy had experienced breakthrough seizures that they had not experienced while taking the branded versions of the drugs. That gave rise to the introduction of generic “carve-out” legislation in 35 states that would have placed restrictions on when a generic drug can be used, though only three of them passed.
In study, insurer shows cost benefits of smarter health decisions by patients
BLOOMFIELD, Conn. Americans can lower their total medical costs significantly by taking simple steps to prevent or manage disease and by switching to generic drugs whenever possible, new research from health insurance giant Cigna confirmed.
A new, multiyear study compared the healthcare claims of 897,000 Cigna customers enrolled in consumer-driven health plans, preferred provider organizations and health maintenance organizations. Based on its findings, Cigna asserted that beneficiaries covered by its Cigna Choice Fund CDH plans “improve their costs without compromising care by becoming more engaged in improving their health and by becoming informed healthcare consumers,” according to a company report.
“When Americans engage in health-smart habits, such as participating in health coaching and disease management programs, substituting generic medications for brand-name drugs and avoiding unnecessary trips to the emergency room, their total medical costs went down 15%,” the report noted. That resulted in an average savings of $358 per person in the first year, Cigna noted.
Behind the cost reductions, according to the insurer, were higher-than-industry-average rates of participation by Cigna CDH plan members in health coaching and disease management programs, as well as higher generic drug substitution rates. “Cigna CDH plan participants who also have Cigna Pharmacy Management benefits choose generic equivalent drugs 70% of the time,” the company noted.
Avoiding unnecessary emergency room visits also is key to health cost savings, the report noted. “CDH plan enrollees use the emergency room at a 13% lower rate than individuals who have HMO and PPO plans,” the company asserted. “When Cigna Choice Fund customers visited an urgent care facility, their doctor’s office or convenience clinic instead of the ER, they saved an average of $800.”
“The evidence is clear,” the report’s authors asserted. “Given the right incentives, the right health improvement programs, useful cost and quality information, and easy-to-understand correspondence, individuals are making rational, wise and successful healthcare decisions.”
In sweeping overhaul of its retail mission, Rexall unveils ‘Healthy Living’ prototype
MISSISSAUGA, Ontario Katz Group Canada’s flagship Rexall drug store chain has unveiled a new retail format aimed at making its stores “an innovative health destination” that will provide customers with preventive-health products and solutions, information to lead healthier lives and an integrated approach that weds such clinical capabilities as disease state management with wellness counseling.
Company planners have opened the new format, called Rexall Healthy Living Pharmacy, at six Rexall locations across Canada. The stores offer “more than 200 health information touch points, new team members, new tools and services and one of the broadest assortments of [dermatologic] brands in the Canadian market,” according to Katz Group.
The change in both the design and merchandising strategy at the Healthy Living stores is apparent even before customers enter the store, with new, earth-toned exteriors designed to blend more easily with their surroundings and convey a healthier, more natural image. Upon entering the store, customers can get help at the “Healthy Living Station” from a specially trained “health and customer experience ambassador.” Dubbed the store’s healthy living adviser, he or she can provide consumers with guidance on products and introductions to pharmacy and skin care services, as well as other help.
Among the health-and-wellness services available to customers is a simple-stick “hemocode” blood test to help patients identify foods that may be creating digestive or other health issues. The test “screens against 250 common foods and additives,” according to the chain, and provides patients with a personalized guide for more problem-free nutrition, including a food chart, customized recipe book and ongoing support from a team of medical professionals allied with Rexall via its association with doctors’ clinics in many of its stores. The service, said a company representative, is covered by most private health plans in Canada.
Another first for the chain: a Rexall Healthy Living Patient Interactive Terminal in prototype stores, with touch-screen capabilities to allow patients to research health information and learn more about disease, prevention, over-the-counter remedies and other topics.
The store’s sweeping redesign allows for “a pure sightline to the pharmacy,” noted COO Warren Jeffery. The pharmacy itself has been expanded to roughly 900 sq. ft., and 5-of-the-6 pilot stores also feature a 190-sq.-ft. Rexall Resource Room adjacent to the pharmacy waiting lounge, which can host health seminars, small-scale community events and other functions.
The new format, said Rexall CEO Andy Giancamilli, is “a full-line drug store, with full coverage of everything you would expect to find in a drug store, but it’s very focused on healthy living. Our goal here is to improve the health care for Canadians,” he told Drug Store News during an exclusive interview with company leaders. “That’s what we’re here for, and to help our patients and customers live a much healthier lifestyle.”
That effort is playing out in several ways in the new Healthy Living prototype, Giancamilli went on. “One is through focusing on adherence,” he said. “Fifty percent of the prescriptions that are written are either not filled, not taken properly or are not refilled, and we feel that if we can improve the compliance and adherence of prescription medication in Canada, we can improve outcomes of some very serious disease states.” Rexall also is focusing on medication therapy management.
“But more importantly, when you walk into this store, you get an environment that will lend itself to informing you about a healthy lifestyle,” Giancamilli said. That means, among other things, a storewide repositioning of virtually every department to “bridge the gap in patient care by providing greater support and accessibility to disease state management and disease prevention,” he added. “We not only have the ability to help our patients with valuable pharmacy programs and primary care, but also help them make healthy product and lifestyle choices.”
One striking example: the stores’ huge, combined skin care and beauty care department. The section, called the Derm Centre and staffed by an expert skin care adviser called a derm consultant, features a huge assortment of high-end and mid-priced brands for healthier skin, along with a “Dermo Analyzer” that provides interactive skin analysis to help customers identify such potential skin issues as hydration and sun sensitivity. The tool helps derm consultants work with individual customers to create a customized skin care regime.
The section also offers a “wet play station” to allow customers to sample products. “Instead of being focused on just cosmetics like our competitors, we’re focused on derm,” Giancamilli asserted.
In addition, there are perimeter and in-aisle departments aimed at different disease states and therapies, including oral care, diabetes, women’s health, bone density, etc. Each department features “information touch points” — signage cueing customers about health benefits and other helpful information.
The project, two years in the making, has yielded a dramatically different store design that Rexall officials said shifts the emphasis from commodity and mass merchandising to preventive health and engagement with customers, both as patients in need of wellness and disease management solutions, and as consumers looking for healthy alternatives in such areas as skin care, beauty and even snack foods.
“We wanted to change from a product-centric focus in the store to a patient-centric focus,” explained chief merchandising officer Ron Lalla. One major goal, he told Drug Store News, is to “inspire” Rexall’s customers “to take charge of their health.”
Despite the change in focus, the new prototype features between 3,500 and 5,000 new SKUs to accommodate the added focus on healthier products, new skin care lines, etc. Stores range in size from 11,000 to 17,000 sq. ft.
To better organize the Healthy Living prototype, Rexall has divided the store into four core shopping zones, color-coded for easy navigation. The Healthy Living section is coded green, while the Derm Centre is set off by light blue coloring. Cosmetics is highlighted with pink undertones, while the front-end convenience section is denoted with an orange background. In general, both the pharmacy and the overall store layout has been opened up to encourage what Rexall officials said is “an increased level of interactivity between the store staff and the customer.”
Company merchants and design teams also took a hard look at Rexall’s core consumer base, said Denise Darragh, VP marketing and advertising. “We segmented the customer into three groupings,” she explained, each with a name. Among them:
- “Marge” is a “senior mom” who is “likely on multiple medications and expects high service levels at the pharmacy,” said Darragh;
- “Betty” is a baby boomer in the “sandwich” generation, often caring for elderly parents, who is “the most time-stressed” of Rexall’s customers and the most likely to seek the products and services offered in the Derm Centre; and
- “Alexa” is a “hockey mom” caring “not only for her own health, but also for her immediate and extended family,” according to Darragh.
Rexall is the flagship pharmacy brand for Katz Group Canada, the 1,800-store retail pharmacy network that operates throughout the country’s provinces under a variety of banners, including Rexall, Pharma Plus, The Medicine Shoppe, Guardian and I.D.A.