Start your engines
It may be more than just coincidence that Walgreens has decided to really blow the doors off of retail pharmacy in the same city that screams horsepower every year over Memorial Day weekend. Because even as those Indy 500 drivers are chugging their milk at the Brickyard, Walgreens’ pharmacists will be celebrating a victory of their own as they and their customers help redefine what “drug store” means in shopper parlance.
Walgreens is building a market-driven, consumer-focused retail health destination center that is focused on driving improved healthcare value for customers. “We are going to move away from the old practice of pharmacy, which was primarily transactional, to more of a personal relationship,” noted Marcel Naddaf, Walgreens market pharmacy director for the Indianapolis and St. Louis markets, during a Drug Store News tour of the Indianapolis market stores in June. “This is a completely new pharmacy, health and wellness experience with a focus on health outcomes,” he said.
One of the key differentiators across all of Walgreens’ Well Experience stores is a consultation pharmacist positioned in a professional and private setting at the pharmacy. Beyond fielding patient inquiries, the pharmacist is able to engage with patients when they need it, how they need it and when it’s most appropriate. “We are seeing great success with this initiative,” Naddaf said. “While the goal is to improve medication adherence for our patients, the positive feedback from our patients has been unbelievable.” It goes well beyond patient feedback, however, and helps to advance the role of the pharmacist by being a trusted and accessible resource for questions about medication and care. How many times does a doctor follow through with a call regarding a new therapy? If the answer is “not many,” Naddaf proposed, then a Walgreens pharmacist has just distinguished themselves within that patient’s healthcare paradigm.
In addition to private consultation rooms located adjacent to the pharmacy, the Indianapolis market stores, as well as many of the other Walgreens Well Experience stores, also feature a larger community room — there are 12 strategically positioned throughout Indianapolis — that can host community-driven health-related information gatherings. It’s not only an opportunity for Walgreens’ pharmacy to interact with the local community, but also a venue for local primary care physicians and specialists to work with Walgreens on specific healthcare topics.
And Walgreens’ pharmacists in the Indianapolis market are empowered to go “above and beyond,” replicating the company’s latest ad slogan, in developing their own relevant services within that community room.
For example, Indianapolis market pharmacy manager Amy Lenell at her store created “Weight Check Wednesdays” — an initiative to educate and support moms with new additions on breast-feeding and infant care. The initiative is done in conjunction with the Indiana Perinatal Network, and while still in pilot phase, that could become a scalable service designed to help capture a family’s healthcare decision-maker early in her tenure.
Walgreens is even marking a new position within the retail environment — the Walgreens Health Guide that serves as a liaison between the patient, the on-site Take Care Clinic and the pharmacy. Armed with tablets dialed into the Walgreens home page, health guides have at least two years of experience in healthcare training, Naddaf said. And while there is a kiosk of sorts in front of the pharmacy, that guide is more often in the aisles helping patients than waiting for patients to come to them.
Taking in the total store — a stronger position in fresh foods, knowledgeable beauty adviser, Take Care Clinics and the pharmacy — Walgreens hopes to generate new dedicated trips for a time-crunched consumer in search of “well,” no matter how that patient defines “well” in his or her own life.
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ReportersNotebook — Over the Counter, 6/25/12
SUPPLIER NEWS — Biolife in May launched WoundSeal, a hemostat product specifically targeting Americans on a regimen of blood thinners. While hemostat products have been introduced into the first aid set before, this is the first one targeting patients on a specific therapy.
According to the company, as many as 52 million Americans are taking blood thinners, and 11% stop taking those medicines because of “nuisance bleeding.” The company already is working on a line extension for the product — WoundSeal for Nosebleeds — that includes a specially designed applicator for nosebleeds or other hard-to-reach areas like head wounds.
MarcasUSA in May announced the U.S. debut of Conazol, a leading over-the-counter athlete’s foot treatment in Mexico. The brand is expanding its U.S. distribution and can be found at such retailers as Walmart and Target in key U.S. Hispanic markets, including Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas and Chicago, the company stated.
That marks the second Mexican company to seek entry into the U.S. mass marketplace in the past few months. Genomma Lab Internacional recently attempted to expand its product portfolio with its proposed-and-rejected acquisition of Prestige Brands.
Genomma already is distributing product through mass retail outlets, according to the company’s website, and currently boasts more than 78 brands in its product portfolio.
Hispanics represent one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in the United States. According to the Census Bureau, the Hispanic population grew from 35.3 million in 2000 to 50.5 million in 2010, a 43% increase. In 2010, Hispanics represented a little more than 15% of the total U.S. population. By 2050 the U.S. Census Bureau projects there will be more than 100 million Hispanic-Americans, representing almost 25% of the U.S. population. And Hispanics skew younger as compared with Americans overall — the median age among Hispanics is 28 years old versus 37 years old for the general American population, according to Nielsen research.
Divergent pathways in switch paradigm
While the picture of a new Rx-to-OTC switch paradigm is being painted with a broad stroke brush, already there are two divergent pathways emerging around what that new paradigm landscape might look like.
OTC manufacturers have been framing the new paradigm within the existing two-drug-class system, suggesting that the diagnostic tools that already are available in the marketplace significantly could help expand which medicines are considered appropriate in the OTC space.
Retail pharmacists, on the other hand, are advocating for the creation of a third class of drugs.
Pharmacists advocate that third-class codification primarily to create a set of clinical standards that would help identify which medicines would require a pharmacist intervention, and define exactly what that role would be — whether that intervention would be in tandem with a primary care physician, for example, or establish a treatment protocol exclusive of the PCP.
Reimbursement also is a concern for pharmacists. Codifying exactly what kind of clinical intervention by the pharmacist would be required to successfully switch a new-paradigm medicine would be used to justify appropriate compensation for services rendered.
However, a behind-the-counter class of drugs could become problematic as it establishes a new regulatory bucket in which pre- existing OTC medicines can be thrown. Worried that your child may be chugging dextromethorphan with their friends? That sounds like a good BTC candidate. Feeling exasperation that basement meth cooks still are figuring out how to feed their pseudoephedrine need from retail? Require that it be sold BTC.
PSE already is mandated for sale from behind the counter, of course. But it took an act of Congress to make that happen.
There is one theme around which the two groups agree — expanding the switch paradigm must serve to broaden access to appropriate medicines. And the reasons driving those switches must be clinical in nature, as opposed to regulatory or legislative.