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You better watch out: ‘Flash robs’ loom this holiday season

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — There’s one trend that retailers should brace for this holiday season.

Despite projected spending outlooks made by several research and retail groups, retailers nationwide will draw crowds this holiday season. However, it seems that certain consumers (particularly, teenagers and young adults) have utilized the power of technology and social media to conduct "flash robs," a take on the impromptu gatherings known as flash mobs.

Last week, the National Retail Federation released its 2011 crowd management guidelines, which warned retailers to be mindful of these events. According to an NRF Criminal Flash Mob report, 10% of retailers said they have been a victim of this type of multiple offender crime.

"Traditionally, these multiple offender crime groups engage in grab-and-run scenarios where offenders quickly enter stores and target specific merchandise — such as high-end handbags, jewelry and designer clothing — then flee, sometimes to a waiting vehicle or, as was the case in several high profile incidents, using mass transit," NRF said on its website.

"Many families make holiday shopping an important tradition, and retailers’ main goal is to make that experience a safe and pleasant one," said Joe LaRocca, NRF senior asset protection adviser Joe LaRocca said. "Crowd management is not taken lightly for retailers, who plan ahead for months in anticipation of large events with practice runs, a well-trained staff, and a thorough analysis of the company and its customers."

The Wall Street Journal also cited several instances of "flash robs," including one at a Philadelphia-area Sears over the summer, as well as several stores in Chicago. Affected retailers included Armani Exchange, Filene’s Basement and The North Face.

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Study: Fluzone High-Dose works well in senior population

BY Michael Johnsen

SWIFTWATER, Pa. — Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of Sanofi, released data from a new study examining the ability of its Fluzone High-Dose vaccine to provoke an immune response in elderly and younger adults, compared with a standard dose of Fluzone vaccine.

"The results further support the immunogenicity advantages of Fluzone High-Dose vaccine as compared to Fluzone vaccine, the standard dose comparator, in seniors 65 years of age and older," stated Peter Tsang, director clinical development, Sanofi Pasteur.

Fluzone High-Dose vaccine was licensed by the Food and Drug Administration in December 2009 for adults ages 65 years and older because the vaccine addressed an unmet medical need. People older than 65 years of age have the highest rates of hospitalization and death from influenza and its complications, despite having among the highest immunization rates against influenza. The immune response of people ages 65 years and older to the traditional flu shot is substantially lower than that of younger people. Thus, Fluzone High-Dose vaccine was developed to generate a more robust immune response in the senior population.

In the multicenter trial, 639 subjects between the ages of 65 and 96 were randomized to receive one standard dose of Fluzone vaccine or Fluzone High-Dose vaccine and 186 younger adults ages 18 through 49 years received Fluzone vaccine. Both influenza vaccines were formulated with the influenza virus strains for the 2007-2008 season and contained A/Solomon (H1N1), A/Wisconsin (H3N2) and B/Malaysia.

Hemagglutination Immunization antibody titers were measured before and 28 days post-vaccination.

Among those ages 65 years and older, statistically significantly higher antibody responses were induced by Fluzone High-Dose vaccine compared to Fluzone vaccine. Administration of Fluzone High-Dose vaccine in people over the age of 65 years enhanced the antibody response to levels similar to, and for some parameters higher than, those observed in younger adults receiving the standard dose of Fluzone vaccine.

The data were presented at the 49th Annual Meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.


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Walgreens/Express Scripts dispute adding fuel to merger fire

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — It’s been another busy week on the Walgreens/Express Scripts front as an arbiter ruled against preliminary injunctive relief in time for the 2012 Medicare open enrollment period, which actually started last week. What’s more, other parties are beginning to weigh in on the dispute, notably in favor of Walgreens.

(THE NEWS: Preliminary injunctive relief denied in WAG/ESI dispute. For the full story, click here.)

Thomas Engels, VP public affairs of the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin, wrote in to the Wisconsin daily, the Herald Times Reporter, expressing a thought that a lot of people have been thinking of late — if one of the largest pharmacy chains in the country can’t swallow Express Scripts’ reimbursement terms, what does that mean for small chains and independents that don’t have near the economies of scale enjoyed by Walgreens?

That becomes even a greater concern when you consider Express Scripts’ proposed merger with Medco. Groups like the National Community Pharmacists Association have been very vocal in opposing that merger, suggesting that the resulting mega-PBM would push many independents into early retirement.

And the Preserve Community Pharmacy Access NOW! coalition on Oct. 19 added its voice to that issue — charging that an ESI-Medco PBM would also mean increased healthcare costs and reduced access for patients. 

Taken together, the dispute around Walgreens’ refusal to accept Express Scripts’ proposed reimbursement rates and the number of groups and organizations climbing the closest mountain top to voice their opposition to that ESI-Medco merger, the Walgreens/ESI battle is serving to  fan the flames around the ESI-Medco merger and what that would mean for retail pharmacy. 

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