A ‘sharp’ solution for immunization season
Mail-back programs can make navigating flu season stress-free for retail pharmacies
Immunization season is upon us, which means it’s critical for retail pharmacists to take necessary steps to ensure their sharps practices are safe, secure and compliant. Additionally, American consumers increasingly are skipping a trip to the doctor’s office and instead visiting their local pharmacy for their annual flu shot.
According to a recent Stericycle report, 25% of Americans prefer to get their flu shot at their local pharmacy, which means that pharmacies can expect more foot traffic, more vaccine administrations and more sharps disposals than in years prior. Further research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 17% of immunizations are provided at employer locations, with a high percentage of this segment conducted by traveling retail pharmacists.
With that, mail-back programs play a critical role when it comes to helping pharmacists maintain safety and productivity throughout this busy season, whether they are administering immunizations on-site at retail pharmacies or off-site at offices, schools or clinics. In fact, the mail-back system has been the primary collection and disposal process at all national and local-branded retailers since 2010, when pharmacies in all 50 states became eligible to administer flu shots.
Here are some examples of how sharps mail-back containers are helping retail pharmacists maintain compliance and quality care as their role becomes more patient-focused.
Streamlining compliance standards
As the immunizer market shifts to retail settings, pharmacy leaders need to ensure their regulatory standards are up to par. Disposing of needles — in any setting — is highly regulated by OSHA and the U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as state and local officials. Navigating these various regulatory channels is challenging for facilities of all sizes, which means it’s critical that pharmacies review requirements of federal or state processes around sharps disposal.
Partnering with a third-party waste management expert will help ensure compliance with regulatory requirements concerning medical waste.
Because sharps are a regulated waste, only the United States Postal Service or a licensed medical waste transporter can transport these properly packaged systems for disposal in most cases. When properly packaged by a pharmacist, mail-back containers will meet all requirements for sending sharps waste to a disposal site through USPS. Because the container is provided with prepaid postage, retail pharmacists only have to fill out a quick form and place the container in the mail, allowing them to focus on patient care.
Fast-paced, high-volume environments can lead to stress, fatigue and, inherently, employee errors. As the role of retail pharmacists continues to transform from dispensing medications to also providing on-site patient immunizations, it’s critical that pharmacy leaders provide adequate training to create a culture around sharps safety and injury prevention.
Mail-back programs allow retail pharmacies to streamline the process of collecting and disposing of sharps, while reducing staff exposure to needlesticks, as well as mitigate risks around institutional diversion.
The convenience and simplicity of mail-back programs enable retail pharmacists to get back to the work that matters. Maintaining compliance throughout the year is critical, but especially when productivity levels need to remain high during such busy periods as immunization season. Stericycle’s assortment of turnkey mail-back systems help retail pharmacies maintain a safe and healthful workplace, providing everything needed to properly and safely dispose of sharps or small quantities of biohazardous waste. Stericycle’s systems are comprised of custom-designed, FDA-cleared, mailable sharps containers; a prepaid postage return-by-mail shipping box; manifest; and instructions for easy use. Proof of proper disposal is then provided for your records.
Enrico Vona is vice president of healthcare national accounts at Stericycle.
Rising Stars: HRG highlights top product launches from October
The new product team at Waukesha, Wis.-based Hamacher Resource Group keeps busy, and October was no exception. The team evaluated 120 products that launched during the month across OTC, beauty and wellness categories. Of the total products, roughly 49% (58 products) were beauty, 28% (34 products) were wellness-focused and 23% (28 products) were OTC-focused. The standouts were:
WaxRx Ear Wash Refill Kit
Dr. Easy, makers of the WaxRx ear wash system, added an option to refill the system in October. The kit includes ear drops with chamomile and aloe to soothe the ear, as well as a pH-conditioning ear rinse used after earwax removal. The ear rinse is designed to balance the ear’s pH to reduce risk of infection.
Listerine Ready! Tabs, Clean Mint
The latest from Johnson & Johnson’s Listerine brand, Ready! Tabs transform in a user’s mouth from solid to liquid. Users simply chew to activate the tabs, swish the liquid around and then swallow after 30 seconds. The product is alcohol-free to make it safe to swallow, and the company said it is formulated to last for hours.
Kamedis Calm Eczema Therapy Wash
Kamedis Dermatology, maker of botanical-based skin care products, expanded its offerings with its Calm Eczema Therapy Wash. The product is formulated for skin that is extremely dry, red, itchy and irritated due to eczema. Its botanicals are meant to work in combination to provide prebiotic properties that the company said contribute to overall skin health.
Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelette Singles
In an effort to make makeup removal easier on-the-go, J&J’s Neutrogena brand debuted these individually wrapped face wipes — a more portable version of its mainstay makeup removing towelettes. The product is packaged in bags of 20 wipes that the company said are ideal for on-the-go.
Mucinex Children’s Stuffy Nose Nasal Spray
Reckitt Benckiser has extended its Mucinex brand’s offerings with Mucinex Children’s Stuffy Nose Nasal Spray, meant for children age six years old and older — the first for this age group for the brand. The nasal spray is formulated to last as long as 12 hours to relieve stuffy noses.
Consumer trends reshape the retail landscape
The consumer and retail environments are changing rapidly, and CPG brands need to evolve their strategies in order to stay relevant. That was the message Brian Owens, vice president of retail insights at Kantar Consulting, brought to his presentation at the recent Emerson Group Industry Day conference, held in Philadelphia in late September.
Among the key consumer trends to consider is the growing divide between low-income and high-income consumers, he said. “We also have to understand that the big middle class is shrinking,” Owens said. “It’s about high income and low income, and there are different needs for each.”
That trend will impact CPG companies, Owens said, because there are fewer opportunities for “one-size-fits-all” products, and more opportunities for items that appeal to either end of the income spectrums.
The trend also is evident among retailers, as demonstrated by the growth of such discount formats as Aldi and Dollar General.
At the same time that retail formats appealing to low-income consumers are growing, so is spending on more high-end products. People are willing to spend money to indulge, said Owens, who noted that the No. 1 reason people trade up to higher-end CPG products is indulgence, cited by 73% of shoppers in a recent survey.
Another key consumer trend to be aware of is the shift toward spending on services, with healthcare services leading the way, Owens said. Additionally, Owens noted that Health care represents 27% of the amount households spend on services, followed by financial services and food services at 9% each.
“These are all things that people need to outsource,” he said. “They need help.”
Shoppers ultimately are looking for stress-free shopping experiences, Owens said. That impacts how retailers and CPG companies should be approaching their omnichannel strategies.
“We all should be stress-free brands, at the end of the day,” he said. “There’s value in that. It’s important for us to understand how our brand fits into that stress, and how it unlocks it and alleviates it.”
Another important consumer trend to consider is the fact that many millennials are waiting until they are older to have children. This means that often young mothers have advanced further in their careers and have more money to spend, and, at the same time, are looking for convenient shopping solutions.
“That is a cohort that we all need to really consider differently — that 40-plus mom,” Owens said.
In addition, retailers and brands need to consider the upcoming “centennial” generation, which Owens described as those between ages 0 and 19 years old. Like the millennials before them, this group will be evaluating products based on their purpose.
“They’re looking for the value you’re providing them, and we have to understand how they define that,” Owens said.
Retailers and CPG brands also need to understand the health-and-wellness journey of the consumer, Owens said. People are transitioning “from sick care to self-care,” he said, which has ramifications for the products they are selecting as they focus on prevention and overall wellness.
Retailers and CPG brands need to be increasingly familiar with such emerging digital technologies as voice-based ordering and auto replenishment, Owens said, noting that by 2025, 30% of CPG purchases will be through auto replenishment. As a result, those products that are auto replenished will no longer be a part of consumers’ basket consideration, and it will be difficult to get those shoppers to replace those items with different offerings.
“If you’re not influencing them when they want to be influenced in an e-commerce environment, which is increasingly is digital, the cost of getting them back is going to be too high,” Owens said.