PHARMACY

Retail sales down slightly in October, but increase on year-over-year basis

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — Retail sales were down slightly in October on a month-to-month basis while increasing on an annual basis, reflecting Hurricane Sandy and uncertainty in Washington, according to the National Retail Federation.

The retailing trade group said Wednesday that October retail sales — with exception to automobiles, gas stations and restaurants — decreased 0.3% seasonally adjusted from September while increasing nearly 4% unadjusted year over year.

"While Hurricane Sandy certainly impacted consumer spending in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, the larger threat to the overall economy is the impending fiscal cliff, which impacts Americans across the country," NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. "The automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect at the end of the year may have more of an impact on business confidence and consumer spending than any other issue."

Sales at health and personal care stores increased 0.3% seasonally adjusted month to month, yet increased 2.1% unadjusted year over year, while general merchandise stores’ seasonally adjusted monthly sales increased 0.2% and unadjusted annual sales decreased 1.1%. At the same time, clothing and clothing accessories stores reported a 0.1% decreased in seasonally adjusted month-to-month sales and a 4.2% increase in unadjusted year-over-year sales.

"The underlying strength of the American consumer is encouraging, but it’s far from definitive," NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. "Hurricane Sandy will have short-term and long-term reverberations on the economy and will continue to impact consumer spending and retail sales over the coming months in the hardest-hit areas. Even though retail sales declined in October, NRF remains confident in moderate consumer spending nationwide and expects a solid holiday shopping season."

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CVS/pharmacy unveils new in-store mobile printing service

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — Shoppers at CVS/pharmacy can now wirelessly upload images from their mobile devices to a Kodak Picture Kiosk, to create such photo products as photobooks, personal greetings and calendars at CVS/pharmacy Photo Center locations nationwide.

"With the addition of the new in-store mobile printing service, available at thousands of CVS/pharmacy Photo Centers, our customers have another convenient option for creating photo gifts and greeting cards," stated Rob Price, chief marketing officer for CVS/pharmacy. "Offering Wi-Fi access at our photo kiosks is part of our ongoing commitment to provide our customers with easy one-stop shopping for personalized gifts this holiday season."

To access the service, customers must download the free Kodak Kiosk Connect App — available in Google Play or the Apple app store — to wirelessly import personal photos from their mobile device to CVS/pharmacy Kodak Picture Kiosks.

In addition to expanding in-store photo services, CVS/pharmacy currently offers shoppers on-the-go printing options with the CVS/pharmacy Mobile app, allowing them to print photos directly from their smartphone or from their CVSphoto.com account for pickup at a local CVS/pharmacy the same day. The CVS/pharmacy Mobile app can also be downloaded through the Apple app store or Google Play.

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NCPA submits comments in support of compounding to congressional committees

BY Michael Johnsen

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Community Pharmacists Association on Wednesday submitted comments to two congressional committees holding separate hearings examining the meningitis outbreak at the New England Compounding Center, including the the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, respectively.

The NCPA’s comments outline the differences between customized medications that prescribers ask independent pharmacists to prepare through traditional compounding for specific patients versus the large-scale manufacturing that NECC appears to have engaged in and allegedly led to the meningitis cases.

A recent survey of 400 independent community pharmacists found that while 85% provided traditional compounding, 62% said it makes up no more than 5% of their business. In addition, 72% provided only nonsterile medications, as opposed to sterile medications mass-produced by the NECC. 

“Independent community pharmacists are working constructively with policy-makers to help ensure that a tragedy like this doesn’t happen again,” stated NCPA CEO Douglas Hoey. “The overwhelming majority of independent community pharmacies offer traditional compounding services as a small, but vital, niche service that meets patients’ specific health needs often reduces costs and alleviates drug shortages. Congress and others addressing the meningitis outbreak should preserve patients’ access to traditional compounding services while taking any appropriate action to rein in any rogue drug manufacturers like [the] NECC.”

Hoey added, “Ultimately, we want to avoid scenarios where independent community pharmacists are not able to help in timely and often profound ways. In addition to the help they provide individual patients every day, a couple of years ago during the H1N1 outbreak, these local healthcare providers alleviated a critical shortage of the liquid version of Tamiflu for children through traditional compounding.” 

According to the NCPA,independent community pharmacists typically provide compounding services to fulfill special needs that cannot be met by commercially available medications. Examples include hormone replacement medications, flavoring medications for pediatric patients, progesterone suppositories to prevent miscarriages and medications for cystic fibrosis patients.

The Food and Drug Administration has previously said in congressional testimony that “we believe that the vast majority of pharmacies engaging in pharmacy compounding provide a valuable medical service that is an integral part of our modern healthcare system."

The NCPA expressed support for a state-based approach to informing patients (e.g., labeling) that a compounded drug was made by the pharmacist at the behest of a prescriber, but would oppose any labeling requirement suggesting a compounded drug was “unapproved, potentially unsafe or not prepared correctly."

Compounding drugs have repeatedly proven to help reduce costs while ultimately boosting health outcomes.

In the case of the NECC, the NCPA noted, existing state and federal laws and regulatory bodies were sufficient enough, if properly enforced and utilized, to have averted or at least lessened the impact of the tragedy that had occurred. 

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