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Visits up, reform on deck, clinics ramp up

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK —Healthcare reform, a rise in patient visits and expanded service offerings are paving the way for growth in the convenient care clinic sector. And judging by the numbers, the industry once again is heating up.

Since emerging in 2000, the number of convenient care clinics has grown to about 1,200. The bulk of that growth occurred during 2007 and 2008. More recently, much of the growth has taken place within the model and the services offered. To date, convenient care clinics have treated more than 15 million patients, with visits ramping up significantly.

Now with about 30 million uninsured gaining healthcare coverage under healthcare reform, and cash-strapped patients making fewer physician visits, it is clear that growth in the number of clinics is on the horizon.

“Add to that [healthcare reform], the aging of the population and the shortage of primary care practitioners, and the opportunity for services—such as those provided by MinuteClinic—has the potential for growth,” said Andrew Sussman, president of MinuteClinic and SVP and associate chief medical officer for CVS Caremark earlier this year. In fact, as previously reported by Drug Store News, Sussman noted that MinuteClinic could double its current number of clinics in five years. MinuteClinic currently has about 500 locations, making it the largest such provider.

Furthermore, MinuteClinic visits rose 36% during the second quarter ended June 30, Tom Ryan, chairman and CEO of CVS Caremark, told analysts during a July 28 conference call. That is significant growth, especially since last year included the impact of H1N1.

Ken Berndt, director of FastCare, believed that much of the growth going forward will stem from hospital systems jumping aboard the clinic bandwagon. “Hospital systems are continuing to look to expand the medical home, and retail clinics are a large contribution to expanding the medical home for the primary care groups in health systems,” Berndt said. “I think you are going to see health systems do the bulk of the growth.”

Bellin Health Systems established the FastCare brand of retail health clinics in 2006 and currently has 38 clinics either built or under construction. Over the next 12 months, it plans to add between 40 and 50 clinics.

Take Care Health Systems, owned by Walgreens, hasn’t discussed specific growth plans, but company spokesman Gabe Weissman told Drug Store News, “We’ll expand locations, services and offerings to meet the needs of patients and enhance access to high-quality, affordable and convenient health care. Patients are asking for more services at Take Care Clinics, and the marketplace is calling for additional access points for high-quality convenient care. Take Care Clinics are responding by carefully evaluating and implementing treatments that can be offered with clinical excellence.”

Take Care currently operates in-store health clinics at more than 350 Walgreens across the country.

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BioMarin Pharmaceutical acquires ZyStor Therapeutics

BY Alaric DeArment

NOVATO, Calif. BioMarin Pharmaceutical has acquired privately owned biotechnology company ZyStor Therapeutics for $22 million, BioMarin said.

The drug maker said it also would pay ZyStor up to $93 million in milestone payments. The main gem in the deal was ZC-701, ZyStor’s investigative treatment for the lysosomal storage disorder Pompe disease and a potential competitor to Genzyme Corp.’s Pompe disease treatment Myozyme (alglucosidase alfa). A phase 1/2 clinical study of ZC-701 in late-onset Pompe disease is expected to begin in first quarter 2011.

“The acquisition of ZyStor gives us the opportunity to introduce a superior product to fulfill an unmet medical need and is a perfect fit in our core business,” BioMarin CEO Jean-Jacques Bienaime stated. “It not only provides us with a promising product candidate for Pompe disease, but also an exciting new platform technology.”

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Nurse practitioners are vital to a healthy U.S. healthcare system

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT The USA Today article highlighting nurse-managed centers as one “innovative” program that could help fill the primary care physician void is important because it underscores the important role that nurse practitioners play in delivering quality healthcare services.

(THE NEWS: Nurse-managed centers may fill primary care physician void. For the full story, click here)

It is no secret that the healthcare system has been, and will continue to be, under great strain as healthcare costs soar and a shortage of primary care doctors largely contributes to the bottle-necking taking place within emergency rooms.

According to numbers provided by the Convenient Care Association, as few as 2% of medical students coming out of U.S. medical schools intend to pursue a career in general primary care. Also, between 30% and 60% of convenient care clinic patients reported not having a primary care physician. Plus, as many as 40% of convenient care clinic patients said they would have sought costlier care or would have foregone care completely if there had not been a convenient care clinic available.

Clearly, there’s a gap that needs to be filled, and convenient care clinics and such clinics as the Family Practice and Counseling Network in Philadelphia highlighted in the USA Today article, are striving to help fill that gap.

The good news is that the importance of nurse practitioners, as well as the retail-based clinic setting, is not going unnoticed. In fact, Senators Dan Inouye, D-Hawaii, and Thad Cochran, D-Miss., in July introduced the Senate resolution officially designating Aug. 2 to 8, 2010, as National Convenient Care Clinic Week.

Now, with about 30 million uninsured gaining healthcare coverage under healthcare reform and patients making fewer physician visits, either because they can’t afford it or can’t get an appointment in a timely fashion, the U.S. healthcare systems needs “innovative” programs and needs nurse practitioners.

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