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Walmart executive to serve as NRF’s communications leader

BY DSN STAFF

WASHINGTON — The National Retail Federation has named Bill Thorne SVP communications and public affairs. He will join NRF on June 1 to oversee the organization’s industry and public affairs communications strategy, including NRF’s "Retail Means Jobs" campaign, a multimillion dollar initiative to demonstrate the power of retail to America’s economy and the career opportunities within the industry.

Thorne currently serves as senior director of community affairs at Walmart.

"Throughout his long career, Bill has proven himself to be an accomplished strategist with an incredible track record of creating and building successful campaigns," NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. "As NRF continues to invest in talent and resources to promote the retail industry both in Washington and around the world, bringing in an executive at the intersection of retail and government will help us tell the industry’s story in an even more compelling way."

During his tenure at Walmart, Thorne oversaw the creation and execution of campaigns for urban market entry, including budgets, strategy, and planning and development of both long- and short-term campaigns. He also served as senior director of advocacy outreach, where he created and successfully launched Walmart’s corporate, public and political advocacy network.

Prior to Walmart, Thorne served as VP at DCI Group, where he led grassroots advocacy, public relations, and communications programming for a number of prestigious corporate and association clients. He also spent four years as director of political and legislative grassroots at the American Medical Association.

Earlier in his career, Thorne worked in various political capacities at the state and national levels including several years with the National Republican Senatorial Committee and more than five years with Sen. Phil Gramm. A native of Georgia, he holds a B.A. in journalism and political science from the University of Georgia.

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Rx for a global safety net

BY Jim Frederick

In practical everyday terms, does it matter to the community or health system pharmacist that the Food and Drug Administration is forging ties with other agencies worldwide and becoming more international in its outlook and focus? You bet.

The FDA released a report on April 23 that detailed a slew of initiatives and strategies the agency is taking "to transform from a domestic to a global public health agency." The report described steps the FDA is taking "to ensure that imported food, drugs, medical devices and other regulated products meet the same rigorous standards for safety and quality as those manufactured domestically."

Among those steps: Improving information sharing among the regulatory oversight agencies in different nations about potential threats to public health from defective products or substandard manufacturing techniques, so that faster and more effective countermeasures can be mounted. (For a copy of the report, click here.)

This isn’t some wonky exercise by overreaching federal bureaucrats. This is government at its best, doing what it’s supposed to do: Protecting the public health. And it’s vitally important to pharmacy.

"Today we recognize that to successfully protect the U.S. public health, we must think, act and engage globally," FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg said. "Our interests must be broader than simply those within our own borders."

The numbers behind that assertion are striking. The U.S. now imports no less than 40% of finished dosage drugs – the ones you dispense to your patients – and more than 80% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients used to make our medicines. What’s more, according to Hamburg, FDA-regulated products originate from more than 150 countries, 130,000 importers, and 300,000 foreign production centers large and small. And imports of pharmaceutical products are growing at nearly 13% a year.

Hamburg said drug safety is a global challenge that will require a global alliance and "new, unprecedented, even unexpected, ways to build a public health safety net for consumers around the world."

Is she right? And, if so, is the FDA doing enough, fast enough, to ensure that safety net here at home? Please let us know what you think.

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Organic sales surpassed $31 billion in 2011, survey finds

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON — The U.S. organic industry grew by nearly 10% to $31.5 billion in 2011, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2012 organic industry survey.

The OTA found that the easing of the recession, consumer price inflation due to input price increases and consumers’ increasing desire for convenience products were all factors that elevated growth for the year.

Overall organic product sales saw growth of 9.5%, which continued to outpace total sales of comparable conventionally produced food and nonfood items, which experienced 4.7% growth. Breaking down the total market capture, the organic food and beverage sector was valued at $29.22 billion, while the organic nonfood sector reached $2.2 billion. Additionally, organic food sales experienced 9.4% growth in 2011 and now represent 4.2% of all U.S. food sales, up from 4% in 2010.

Looking ahead, organic food and nonfood sales will continue to sustain growth levels of 9% or higher, OTA said.

"Consumers are increasingly engaged and discerning when they shop, making decisions based on their values and awareness about health and environmental concerns," OTA executive director and CEO Christine Bushway said. "For them, it matters whether foods are genetically engineered, or produced using practices that are good for their families. Price is still an issue, but with the wide availability of private label products and many venues for organic products, they have many choices for where to shop and a variety of products from which to choose."

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