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CEOs of CVS Health, Aetna say merger will offer new front door to healthcare

BY David Salazar

The heads of CVS Health and Aetna took to CNBC’s “The Squawk Box” Monday morning to outline how the two companies’ proposed $69 billion cash-and-stock merger will impact consumers. Larry Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health, said that its acquisition of the Hartford, Conn.-based insurer would create a new way for patients to access care — and plays to areas in which both companies were looking to bolster their positions.

“As [Aetna chairman and CEO] Mark [Bertolini] and I continued to have discussions in terms of ‘How can we do things more strategically?’ it was clear as CVS Health was moving to become more of a healthcare company and getting closer to payers, Mark had a similar strategy in terms of getting closer to the customer,” Merlo told CNBC. “It’s really the perfect time to bring these two companies together to create a new healthcare platform that can be easier to use and less expensive for consumers and really create a new front door to health in our country.”

Bertolini sees the merger as a way to offer a more tailored experience to Aetna's roughly 44.7 million members through Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Health’s offerings from its roughly 9,700 retail pharmacy locations and roughly 1,100 MinuteClinic locations

Think of an idea where we have 10000 new front doors to the healthcare system, where people can walk in, they can ask for some help, get guided through the system,” Bertolini said. “We can make the insurance the back room of the operation, we can waive prior authorizations, we can waive copays as people use the system in a way that’s more effective so we can reduce costs. It’s simpler, it’s customized for the individual based on what they need and it’s cheaper.”

The companies’ post-merger plans include turning CVS Pharmacy locations into healthcare hubs where patients can seek guidance on their conditions, health coverage and prescription medications. Merlo said that if the deal goes through — the companies expect it to close in the second half of 2018 pending regulatory approval — its efforts to leverage both companies’ strengths would start immediately.

“Upon closing, there’s things that we’ll be able to do out of the gate,” Merlo said. “At the same time we’ll begin to pilot these concepts, we’ll learn from them, and I would expect within the next couple of years, you'll see a dramatic change in terms of the store not just being about products but also service offerings that can help people on their path to better health.”

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SLIDESHOW: 19th Annual DSN Industry Issues Summit cocktail reception

BY DSN STAFF

Ahead of the 19th Drug Store News Industry Issues Summit, the magazine held a cocktail reception Tuesday at New York’s Redeye Grill, blocks from the iconic Plaza Hotel, where the industry’s best and brightest would gather for the annual event.

The event on Wednesday included five panels — Enabling Patient-Facing Care, Payer Partnerships and Delivering Outcomes, Chronic Pain Management, Bridging the Gap Between Pharmacy and the Front Store and 7 Ideas That Matter. Panelists and moderators included executives from the top retailing, CPG manufacturing, pharmacy technology and distribution companies in the industry. Also part of the event was a keynote address from Ari Fleischer, who served as White House Press Secretary during the first several years of the George W. Bush Administration.

Highlights from each of the panels will be featured in forthcoming issues of Drug Store News. 

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EverlyWell jumps the ‘Shark’

BY Seth Mendelson

“Shark Tank,” the hit ABC television series, is paying off for EverlyWell, an at-home health testing company. EverlyWell founder and CEO Julia Cheek accepted a $1 million line of credit in exchange for 5% equity on the show that aired Sunday, Nov. 26. It is the largest valuation deal for a solo female entrepreneur in “Shark Tank” history.

“You get one shot to tell your story to the sharks and to America.” Cheek said after the show. “We know that our brand and consumer education is incredibly important to our growth, so it was really a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to pitch the sharks for an investment. This has been an incredible journey, and I’m grateful that we got our retail ‘start’ at GMDC’s Demo Day. We are eager for the next chapter in EverlyWell’s growth."

EverlyWell was first pitched in front of a retail executives audience during Global Market Development Center’s Retail Tomorrow “Demo Day” in 2016, then went on to win the Chair’s Choice Award during the 2017 GMDC Health Beauty Wellness Marketing Conference. The company offers a variety of at-home lab tests — including tests for food sensitivity, metabolism, sexually transmitted infections, ovarian reserves and others, some of which also offer a DNA analysis component. The results of the tests are delivered via the company’s secure platform.  

“We knew Julia and her innovative company was poised for incredible success when the startup presented at our inaugural Demo Day,” said Patrick Spear, president and CEO of GMDC. “And that success has been rewarded by this historic – and groundbreaking — ‘Shark Tank’ deal. The sky’s the limit for Julia and EverlyWell, and we are proud of the entrepreneurial accomplishments they are enjoying.”

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