PHARMACY

Aurora Health Care to end supermarket pharmacy business

BY Alaric DeArment

MILWAUKEE In an effort to consolidate its various healthcare operations, Aurora Health Care plans to end its business operating pharmacies inside grocery stores, the Milwaukee-based healthcare network announced Wednesday.

Aurora said it would sell an additional 10 pharmacies it operates in other grocery stores or outside its service area to Walgreens, which plans to close them and transfer prescriptions to nearby Walgreens stores. In addition, supermarket operator Roundy’s will buy the 20 pharmacies that Aurora operates inside its stores.

“These changes will strengthen our integration within Aurora and help ensure that all of our pharmacies are able to meet our patients’ needs with the same high level of services,” Aurora Pharmacy director of operations John Gates said in a statement.

The network will continue to operate its 81 standalone retail pharmacies throughout eastern Wisconsin.

Gates said the supermarket pharmacies were too small to offer Aurora Pharmacy’s full array of services, such as home medical supplies, while the stores outside its service area, in eastern Wisconsin, could not be fully integrated within the Aurora system.

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Merck, Schering-Plough to complete merger

BY Alaric DeArment

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. Drug makers Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp. will complete their merger Tuesday, Merck announced.

The two companies will begin combined operations Wednesday, with Schering-Plough adopting the Merck name and Schering-Plough stock becoming stock in the combined company.

The announcement of the merger follows recent clearance from regulatory authorities in China, Europe and Mexico, as well as the recent finalization of Pfizer’s acquisition of Wyeth.

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Bristol-Myers Squibb on Baraclude: Better efficacy than competitor

BY Alaric DeArment

BOSTON A Bristol-Myers Squibb drug used to treat hepatitis B kept viral load levels down more effectively than its competitor, according to study results announced by the company.

Bristol presented results in Boston Saturday at the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease’s annual meeting of a 48-week study comparing Baraclude (entecavir) with Gilead Sciences’ Hepsera (adefovir) in 191 patients with chronic hepatitis B infection with severe cirrhosis of the liver, also known as decompensated cirrhosis. Liver disease accounts for up to 25% of hepatitis B-related deaths.

Halfway through the study, 49% of 100 patients taking Baraclude had an undetectable viral load, compared with 16% of the 91 taking Hepsera. By the end of the study, 57% of Baraclude patients had an undetectable load, versus 20% of Hepsera patients.

“This study represents an important step in addressing an unmet medical need, as this is one of the first comparative studies to evaluate the safety and efficacy of antiviral therapy in this difficult-to-treat patient population,” said Hugo Cheinquer, study investigator and associate professor of gastroenterology and hepatology at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil. “Chronic hepatitis B is a lifelong disease, and these data suggest that treatment with Baraclude may offer chronic hepatitis B patients with decompensated cirrhosis a treatment option.”

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