HEALTH

Thermionics sales heat up

BY DSN STAFF

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. —Thermionics’ ThermiPaq products, which now sport an eye-catching yellow “Control Your Pain!” panel as part of a new graphics package, has been a significant driver of growth within the heat/ice packs segment of late.

For the 52 weeks ended Aug. 8, Thermipaq sales were up 27.2%, reaching $6.1 million across food, drug and mass (minus Walmart) outlets, according to SymphonyIRI Group data. That growth is outpacing the category as a whole, which currently is trending up 6.1%.

In addition to rolling out a new graphics package, Thermionics has been positioning its product line against the chronic pain shopper as an incremental opportunity for retailers. According to recent Thermionics research, 80% of consumers who are treating chronic pain not only purchase multiple solutions across internal analgesics, external rubs, heat/ice therapy and body support devices, but they also shop these sets on a regular basis in search of their own personal pain-relieving regimen of products. There’s an incessant need to find a new or different solution, Thermionics noted, that’s driving consumers toward external analgesic items. That may make for an opportunity to establish a chronic-pain management destination center within the self-care space, the company added, much like there is a destination center at many retailers focused around diabetes-related products.

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Quality of care found at retail clinics shouldn’t be questioned

BY Jim Frederick

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT Retail pharmacy operators continue to expand their presence in the burgeoning market for retail-based walk-in clinics, and the services those convenient-care centers provide. And there’s growing evidence that the nation’s overwrought, cash-crunched healthcare system desperately needs those services in a time of dwindling resources, overworked primary care physicians and unsustainable cost hikes.

(THE NEWS: Take Care Health Systems’ treatment of pharyngitis, upper respiratory infections exceeds national quality benchmarks. For the full story, click here)

Indeed, the more than 1,100 in-store clinics opened by the nation’s drug, supermarket and mass-merchant pharmacy retailers over the past decade are providing a critical service, much the way a steam pressure valve keeps a boiler from exploding. And the quality of care now is beyond dispute.

To the few remaining critics who still question the value of in-store retail clinics and the level of care provided by the nurse practitioners and other health professionals who staff them, Walgreens gave another answer on Monday. The answer came from its Take Care Health Systems subsidiary, which operates more than 700 in-store clinics and worksite health centers.

According to the company, the more than 350 Take Care Clinics within its drug stores exceeded national quality benchmarks for their treatment of pharyngitis and upper respiratory infections, as measured by the Jefferson School of Population Health.

The reasons are easy enough to fathom, and they go to the heart of the mission that community pharmacies and in-store clinics say they’re in business to provide: quality, patient-focused care. Take Care professionals, according to the Jefferson study, demonstrated a patient-centric focus both at the time of initial contact between patient and professional, and afterward, when all patients receive a follow-up call within 48 hours of the visit.

The announcement came fast on the heels of other news on the healthcare front for the nation’s largest drug chain. On Oct. 7, Walgreens revealed it is working with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases to educate the public and health professionals about flu prevention resources. The company also has joined with Families Fighting Flu, a nonprofit organization of families and healthcare practitioners, to heighten flu awareness and encourage vaccinations for children and families.

In all, Walgreens said it plans to administer no fewer than 15 million flu shots during the flu season of late 2010 and early 2011.

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New report indicates times are a-changin’ for drug market

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT The drug industry is undergoing a major paradigm shift. Companies that traditionally have relied on blockbuster drugs are finding that model running dry as their biggest money-makers face competition from generics that eventually will lead to a heavily commoditized market for the disease states that have been the foundation for the model, such as high cholesterol, asthma, mental illness and gastroesophageal reflux disease.

(THE NEWS: IMS Health projects growth for Rx market. For the full story, click here)

In response, many are changing their focus to high-value specialty drugs, especially biotech drugs. For drug companies, it’s just their way of adapting to survive. But it’s also driving a shift in the world of pharmacy, feeding the growth of specialty pharmacy and, in turn, changing the role of the pharmacist in health care, all the while creating opportunities for retail pharmacies to embrace specialty pharmacy as a driver of growth as the “genericization” of pharmaceuticals threatens to dampen their sales figures.

It’s a trend that’s likely to continue. Pfizer’s acquisition of Wyeth, Merck’s acquisition of Schering-Plough, Roche’s acquisition of the remainder of Genentech and, most recently, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s acquisition of ZymoGenetics, as well as Sanofi-Aventis’ efforts to buy Genzyme, are just the largest examples of the pharma shift under way.

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