PHARMACY

About 130,000 people use SoloHealth Stations per day, company says

BY Alaric DeArment

ATLANTA — Health kiosks made by SoloHealth are being used about 40 million times per year, the company said Friday.

The kiosk maker said its SoloHealth Stations around the country had an average of 10 million users per quarter, or almost 130,000 per day, with Texas, Florida, California, Georgia and North Carolina leading other states. The numbers were based on "consumer engagements," which refers to a consumer taking at least one test per session. There are currently at least 3,500 of the kiosks in the market.

"We are thrilled to offer millions of Americans a healthcare access platform that delivers free health and wellness services, tools and information in convenient retail locations nationwide," SoloHealth CEO Bart Foster said. "We are now within driving distance of 79% of the U.S. population, which shows the scale and reach of the station across the nation."

According to the company, almost 70% of users have a medium- to high-risk of blood pressure, while 51% are overweight or obese, and another 51% have a medium- to high-risk of vision loss.

 

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PHARMACY

Bristol-Myers Squibb sells off diabetes business

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — Bristol-Myers Squibb is selling its diabetes business to AstraZeneca for up to $4.3 billion as part of an effort to focus more on specialty drugs, the company said Thursday.

BMS said AstraZeneca would pay $2.7 billion upfront, as well as up to $1.4 billion in milestone payments and up to $225 million on the condition of certain assets being sold. The companies have had a diabetes drug-development partnership since 2007.

"This agreement will allow us to further evolve our business model as a leading specialty biopharma company and increase resources behind the opportunities that drive the greatest long-term value for patients, our company and our shareholders," BMS CEO Lamberto Andreotti said. "Today’s announcement puts the diabetes franchise in the capable hands of AstraZeneca and allows us to move to a more simplified operating model with our pipeline and portfolio."

Many drug companies have sought to increase investment in specialty drugs — used to treat such serious conditions as cancer, autoimmune diseases, chronic viral infections and genetic disorders — in recent years as drugs for treating such primary-care diseases as cardiovascular disease and acid reflux have lost patent protection, and those disease states have become dominated by generics. Analysts have pointed out, however, that diabetes remains one of the few primary-care disease states that will remain profitable for drug companies and continue to see development of new treatments.

 

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NCPA outlines need for legislation protecting community pharmacy in Pennsylvania

BY Michael Johnsen

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Community Pharmacists Association on Thursday announced the need for legislation in Pennsylvania to protect independent pharmacy operators there. 

“Across the Keystone State 1,005 independent community pharmacies serve patients, employ 10,040 people and contribute greatly to local and state tax revenue,” stated Douglas Hoey, NCPA CEO. “The viability of these small businesses is being undermined by the practices of billion-dollar companies known as pharmacy benefit managers, hired by most health plans to administer prescription drug benefits. For Pennsylvanians, their communities and the future of these pharmacies, we encourage lawmakers to swiftly enact common-sense reforms to achieve a more balanced business relationship between PBMs and community pharmacies.”

Hoey singled out three trends that are particularly in need of legislation and further oversight: 

  • First, in order to care for Pennsylvania patients covered by a given health plan, community pharmacists must sign take-it-or-leave-it contracts from Fortune 500 PBMs, Hoey noted. These contracts give the PBMs full authority to determine how they will reimburse pharmacies, especially for generic drugs, which account for nearly 80% of drugs dispensed. Thus, these small business providers are “flying blind” in terms of taking into account the operating costs of their prescription drug inventory;
  • Second, a pharmacy’s acquisition cost for scores of generic drugs are skyrocketing by as much as 600%, 1,000% or more, but the PBMs continue to reimburse community pharmacies at an outdated, lower price. Pharmacists report repeatedly being faced with loses of $40, $60, $100 or more per prescription as the PBM waits several months before updating its reimbursement rates; and
  • Third, by reimbursing pharmacies at low rates and charging health plans at much higher rates — a practice known as “spread pricing” — the PBMs generate profits while propping up insurance costs for employers, government agencies and consumers. Legislation increasing transparency into pharmacy benefit management could reduce the cost of PBM spread pricing, Hoey said. 

NCPA is working on these issues in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association, Value Drug Company, the Philadelphia Association of Retail Druggists and the Keystone Pharmacy Purchasing Alliance.

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