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Actress Viola Davis joins the Safeway Foundation and EIF on child hunger program

BY Michael Johnsen

LOS ANGELES — Academy Award-nominated actress Viola Davis, together with the Safeway Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation, on Thursday launched Hunger Is, a joint charitable program designed to raise awareness and funds to fight childhood hunger in the United States. The year-round campaign encourages individuals and communities to get involved in solving a widespread problem that too often goes unnoticed.

"One in five children in America struggle with hunger — that’s nearly seventeen million children. I was one of those children; I was the one in five," Davis said. "I am honored to join the Safeway Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation to increase awareness and raise funds to help end childhood hunger."

Funds raised through the initiative will go toward programs focused on eradicating childhood hunger and improving health-related outcomes. During the inaugural year, breakfast programs will be the focus, giving children a healthy start to their day and the best chance to excel.

Research shows that children who eat breakfast have better school attendance and achieve higher math scores than children who lack adequate access to food.

"It is unacceptable that millions of children in this country go hungry each day. The good news is that we can make a difference in their lives and send them to class ready and able to learn," stated Larree Renda, Safeway EVP and chair of the Safeway Foundation.

Safeway shoppers will also have multiple opportunities to give during an in-store Childhood Hunger awareness fundraiser during the month of April at more than 1,300 Safeway stores across the United States.

"We are so grateful to Viola Davis for her profound generosity in sharing her personal story and lending her powerful voice to this campaign," commented EIF president and CEO Lisa Paulsen. "Too many kids are not getting the nutrition they need to reach their full potential, and we’re privileged to work with the Safeway Foundation to engage communities across the country in helping to change that."

 

 

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NACDS to Senate Committee: ‘Preserve pharmacy access, choice for Tricare patients’

BY Antoinette Alexander

ARLINGTON, Va. — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is urging a Senate Committee to help preserve pharmacy access and choice for Tricare patients, citing in a written statement the importance of advancing policies that control healthcare costs and preserve patient access to the nation’s community pharmacies.

The subcommittee held a hearing this week titled, “Active, Guard, Reserve and Civilian Personnel Programs.”

In a written statement to the subcommittee, NACDS emphasized that local pharmacies are not only a reliable, convenient source for obtaining prescription drugs, but also a healthcare destination.

“The proximity of community pharmacies to each and every American and pharmacists’ exceptional knowledge and training render pharmacies uniquely positioned to provide care for the American public,” NACDS said in its statement.

The comments cite concerns about proposed changes in the President’s FY2015 budget to pharmacy co-payments that would shift Tricare patients away from local pharmacies and into the Tricare Mail Order Pharmacy program. According to the NACDS, this action would severely limit the ability of beneficiaries to obtain non-formulary medications from their neighborhood pharmacy.

“NACDS supports cost savings initiatives that preserve patient choice, but threatening beneficiary access to prescription medications and their preferred healthcare provider will only increase the use of more costly medical interventions, such as physician and emergency room visits and hospitalizations,” NACDS said in its statement.

NACDS cites another cost-savings solution is increasing the use of generic drugs by Tricare beneficiaries. The Department of Defense’s own analysis reveals that in the case of generic medications, mail order is more expensive than obtaining them from a retail community pharmacy.

“Partnering with local pharmacists, modest increases in generic utilization by Tricare beneficiaries would have a dramatic impact on the DoD budget,” NACDS said in its statement.

DoD has also recognized the cost-effectiveness of pharmacist-provided vaccinations and has authorized Tricare patients to obtain vaccinations at a retail network pharmacy for a $0 co-payment. In its final rule expanding the authority of retail pharmacies to provide vaccinations, the DoD cites cost-savings of nearly $1.5 million by expanding the portfolio of vaccines that Tricare patients may obtain from community pharmacies.

“Ensuring that Tricare beneficiaries have ready access to vaccine supplies allocated to private sector pharmacies will facilitate making vaccines appropriately available to high risk groups of Tricare beneficiaries,” NACDS said in its statement.

In its comments NACDS emphasizes the overall enhanced role of community pharmacy, including medication counseling and medication therapy management services to help patients take their medications as prescribed.

“Policymakers have begun to recognize the vital role that local pharmacists can play in improving medication adherence,” NACDS said in its statement, citing a growing body of evidence that improving medication adherence – including use of MTM to help patients take medications as prescribed – helps to enhance patient health and improve healthcare affordability.

Reports by the Congressional Budget Office and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, as well as articles in Health Affairs and the Journal of American Pharmacists, offer further support that appropriate medication use can improve health while lowering costs, NACDS noted.

“NACDS and the chain pharmacy industry are committed to partnering with Congress, the Department of Defense (DoD), and other healthcare providers to improve the quality and affordability of healthcare services,” NACDS said in its statement.

 

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Fred’s Super Dollar realizes 1.4% gain in fiscal 2013 sales to $1.9 billion

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Fred’s Super Dollar on Thursday posted sales of $495.1 million for the fourth quarter ended Feb. 1, representing an increase of 0.5% on an adjusted basis (fiscal 2012 fourth quarter was 14 weeks vs. 13 weeks in fiscal 2013). Total sales for fiscal 2013 totaled $1.9 billion, representing a 1.4% on an adjusted basis.  

"Our company’s performance in the fourth quarter reflected all the difficulties that have been cited throughout the retail sector recently as we dealt with the unusually harsh weather of the past several months and a significant 24% increase in the cost of generic drugs, which reduced gross margin by 100 basis points in our pharmacy department," stated Bruce Efird, Fred’s CEO. "Despite the impact of the sales miss for the quarter, we experienced continued momentum in the performance of our reconfiguration departments," he said. "With Hometown Auto & Hardware achieving a comparable store sales increase of 1.5% for the quarter. Pharmacy department sales, relative to total sales, increased to 38.6% from 36.2% last year. Additionally, we were able to leverage selling, general and administrative expenses by 40 basis points in the fourth quarter, despite the sales loss."

Fourth quarter comparable store sales, on an adjusted basis, increased 0.1% compared with a decrease of 2.8% in the prior-year period. On an adjusted basis, comparable store sales for fiscal 2013 increased 0.6% versus a decrease of 1.4% for fiscal 2012.

"As we enter the first quarter of 2014, we estimate that the weather impact on sales and expenses and the lingering effects of the utility bills will be contained to the first quarter," Efird said. "However, the impact of generic drug price increases will be felt in both the first and second quarters, as our programs to mitigate the significant rise in generic costs are implemented and begin to take effect, and as our team works with payers to reset appropriate reimbursement rates. We estimate that these two events will have a combined impact in the range of $0.10 to $0.12 per share during the first two quarters of 2014, which is reflected in our guidance."

During the fourth quarter, Fred’s opened three net new locations, consisting of four full-service store openings, four new Xpress pharmacy locations and the closure of four full-service stores and one Xpress pharmacy location. During fiscal year 2013, Fred’s opened 25 new locations, comprising 11 new stores and 14 new Xpress pharmacies. Fred’s also closed 25 stores and eight Xpress locations during the past year.

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