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Rite Aid offering flu shots at all pharmacies

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Flu shots are available at every Rite Aid store around the country, the retail pharmacy chain said Monday.

Rite Aid said more than 11,500 pharmacists are on hand at its 4,700 stores to administer flu shots. Customers who receive the $27.99 shots at Rite Aid will get a coupon booklet with more than $100 in savings on health and wellness, beauty and household products. In addition, Wellness+ members will earn 25 reward points.

"As one of the most accessible healthcare providers, Rite Aid pharmacists play a vital role in the health and well-being of their patients and communities every day, and especially during flu season," Rite Aid EVP pharmacy Robert Thompson said. "With every Rite Aid pharmacist now available to administer flu shots, it’s easier than ever to protect yourself and your loved ones this flu season."

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ISPC urges FTC to investigate ESI-Medco merger

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — The Independent Specialty Pharmacy Coalition is urging the Federal Trade Commission to look into the pending merger between pharmacy benefit managers Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions, the ISPC said Monday.

In a letter to FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz, the group asked the FTC to "comprehensively investigate" the agreement, noting that the merger would give the combined company control of 52% of the specialty pharmacy market and expressing concern that it would restrict access to specialty drugs by forcing manufacturers into exclusive distribution agreements.

"With such market clout, Express Scripts, Express Scripts has the potential to pose manufacturers with an ultimatum: ‘Elect us as sole distributor or risk not being able to serve half of he U.S. or six of the top 10 employers,’" ISPC executive director Russell Gay said. "Exclusive distribution agreements have denied patients choice, often forcing them to use inferior service, threatening their health. These vulnerable consumers need and demand the high quality counseling and monitoring provided by community pharmacies."

The ISPC’s latest statement follows one made at the beginning of the month, as well as a joint statement in July by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association opposing the ESI-Medco deal.

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Walgreens serves up new PL food offerings; and that’s just Nice!

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Nice! may tout no-frills packaging, but make no mistake, Walgreens’ latest private-label introduction is anything but. It’s another example of Joe Magnacca’s influence as president of daily living solutions; and it’s another way by which Walgreens will better connect to its customers. Indeed, the packaging is more similar to the DR Delish brand than Walgreens’ typical store-brand fare. But perhaps most important, Nice! represents a strong push into a key drug-store differentiator going forward — food offerings.

(THE NEWS: Walgreens officially kicks off Nice! launch. For the full story, click here)

And it couldn’t have come at a better time. The state of the economy is fast becoming a top-of-mind concern for Americans, again, as both prices at the pump remain relatively high, compared with last year — a national average of $3.57 per gallon as of Aug. 22, as compared with $2.71 per gallon a year ago, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report — and food prices continue to rise.

According to Deloitte’s "2011 Consumer Food and Product Insight Survey," nearly 9-in-10 survey respondents (87.7%) believed prices in food stores are escalating, and almost three-quarters (74%) said the size of some packaged goods is smaller. Consequently, savvy consumers are purchasing more private-label and store-brand products, the survey found. More than three-quarters of respondents (75.3%) purchased lower-priced products, and nearly 2-in-5 respondents (39.6%) added more private-label products to their grocery bags.

Couple that insight with Walgreens’ July announcement that the chain would create some 1,000 "food oasis" stores over the next five years, and you can begin to see that food offerings in drug stores aren’t just a passing fad. At least not at Walgreens; food is here to stay. In those stores identified as a "food oasis," Walgreens has expanded its food selection by up to 60%, offering a larger assortment of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and other healthy meal components to help address the need for greater access to affordable, nutritious food. And now, a line of store-brand value food and other household items to round out that offering.

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