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AMA pushes for ban on tobacco items from stores with clinics

BY Antoinette Alexander

CHICAGO —The American Medical Association is at it again.

Just days removed from public comments filed by the Federal Trade Commission decrying the rationale of such a move, physicians who gathered here last month for the AMA’s annual meeting, muddied the waters, backing a new public health policy that calls for a ban on the sale of tobacco products in retail outlets housing store-based health clinics.

AMA members voted to adopt the policy June 17. “It’s ridiculous for stores that house health clinics to sell tobacco products,” said AMA board member Dr. William Dolan.

The move may fan the flames in several states, such as Illinois, where some law-makers seek to impose restrictions on the operation of retail-based clinics.

One year ago, a handful of smaller physicians’ organizations pushed a similarly unfriendly, anti-clinic agenda at the AMA’s 2007 annual meeting, pushing for a government investigation of retail clinics.

The news of the AMA’s new policy position sent waves throughout the convenient care industry.

“We do not understand how forcing retailers to choose between having an in-store clinic and selling tobacco products serves the broader goal of providing consumers with easier access to high-quality, affordable health care. The FTC was clear in its recent opinion…about the importance of creating an open and competitive healthcare marketplace. Their opinion further reinforced anticompetitive regulations—like those that the AMA is suggesting—that would not, in fact, be in the public interest,” said Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the Convenient Care Association. Hansen-Turton told Drug Store News the CCA remains committed to working with the AMA and other groups to educate the medical community and law-makers on the important role retail clinics play in creating access to health care.

Responding to the AMA’s new health policy, Walgreens, which owns Take Care Health Systems, noted in a statement, “Access to health care is limited when regulations focus on products sold by the retailer. Take Care Health Providers can be an effective resource for those trying to quit smoking by offering information on smoking-cessation programs and healthy lifestyles, and referring them to products available at the store.”

As previously reported by Drug Store News, the FTC approved in early June staff comments regarding proposed regulation of retail healthcare facilities in Illinois. Among the concerns is the bill’s (HB 5372) prohibition on the location of a clinic “in any store or place that provides alcohol or tobacco products for sale to the public.”

FTC staff argued the rationale for not allowing a clinic in a retail store that also sells tobacco or alcohol is unclear. Such a restriction could limit the supply of retail clinics and the basic medical services they would provide.

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CVS Caremark to expand headquarters, add positions

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS Caremark has announced expansion plans for its headquarters over the next two years, a move that will help support the company’s continued growth and current hiring expectations of more than 200 new positions on its corporate campus.

The nature of the new jobs was not disclosed. In Rhode Island, the company currently employs 5,800 associates.

The plans are to build two new 150,000-square-foot office facilities in the Highland Corporate Park in Cumberland, R.I. The company has been based in Highland Corporate Park, which is jointly located in Cumberland and Woonsocket, since 1982. The company significantly expanded its customer support center facilities in 1988 and again in 2000.

“Our company was founded in Rhode Island more than 40 years ago and we feel fortunate to be able to continually reinvest in our home state,” stated Tom Ryan, chairman, president and chief executive officer. “As the largest company in Rhode Island we are looking to further expand our base of operations to support our continued growth and, as a result, increase our workforce over the next few years.”

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A&P announces fiscal Q1 improvements

BY Antoinette Alexander

MONTVALE, N.J. A&P, which operates 446 stores under such banners as A&P, Pathmark and Waldbaum’s, announced on Friday improved results for the first quarter as it nears the completion of the Pathmark integration.

“The first quarter of 2008 clearly demonstrates our continuing progression in operating improvement with the achievement of our fourth straight quarter of comparable store sales of over 3 percent,” stated Eric Claus, president and chief executive officer. “Further, Pathmark is already achieving positive results with comparable store sales climbing above 3 percent for the first time in many years. The company is also well underway with the completion of the Pathmark integration, as many of the planned milestones have been achieved. As of the end of the first quarter, our annualized run-rate of synergies is approximately $100 million.”

Sales for the quarter totaled $2.9 billion compared with $1.7 billion in the year-ago period. Same-store sales rose 3.2 percent, which excludes sales for Pathmark stores acquired in December 2007. Same-store sales for Pathmark, measured during the same period, rose 3.1 percent.

Net income from continuing operations was $3.8 million, with a net loss per diluted share of 48 cents after adjusting for non-operating income related to fair value adjustments. This compares with income of $61.4 million, or $1.45 per diluted share, in the year-ago period.

The company did not break out pharmacy sales results.

As previously reported by Drug Store News, the company announced during the quarter an integral step in its transformation—the conversion of the majority of SuperFresh stores in the Philadelphia market to the recently premiered Price Impact format under the Pathmark Sav-A-Center banner and a number of SuperFresh locations retaining the Fresh format with significant upgrades.

Also during the quarter, the supermarket chain completed the remodel of A&P Fresh in Holmdel, N.J., to the updated Fresh format and began remodeling additional stores. The company also premiered its Price Impact format in the Irvington and Edison Pathmark stores.

“The remainder of fiscal 2008 will be focused on progressing the company further toward operating profitability by: moving forward our operating and aggressive merchandising strategies; maintaining cost control and reduction disciplines throughout the business. Integral to our drive to profitability is the continued and ongoing execution of capital improvement projects all geared for maximum return, and particularly weighted to value propositions,” stated Claus.

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