Congress nixing FSA rule changes is no surprise
WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — It never made much sense to make health care less affordable under the Affordable Care Act — neither did the requirement of a prescription for a nonprescription remedy jive with proponents of flexible spending accounts. So it’s little wonder that the FSA rule changes were the first piece of ObamaCare to face a congressional axe, as was widely speculated just last week.
(THE NEWS: FSA restrictions first piece of ObamaCare to be challenged. For the full story, click here)
But the unifying thread throughout this whole debate, the underlying factor that’s going to end up tying everything together across multiple disciplines, is this: Retail pharmacy saves money. Period. End of story.
It’s the inherent value within over-the-counter medicines and self-care that will be trumpeted as Congress debates the cons around this FSA rule-changing. And part of that value lies within the healthcare professionals on hand to help guide those self-care decisions — the pharmacist, the nurse practitioner and, in some states, a licensed pharmacy technician.
Of course, while nonprescription aisles won’t be the only touch points between retail healthcare practitioners and the general public, they very well may serve as an entrée to the remaining value that pharmacy affords health care — increased participation in compliance programs and medication therapy management initiatives that help keep patients out of the emergency rooms, for example; or greater and more convenient access to vaccinations thanks to immunizing pharmacists now practicing in every state. It all can start in the pharmacy, and more likely in the OTC aisle, as a patient asks for recommendations.
According to a Nielsen Group poll conducted in December 2010, more than half of all participants in an FSA used their accounts to buy an OTC in the preceding 12 months. And of those approximate 9.8 million consumers, 46% suggested they would make that extra visit to their doctor’s office and request prescriptions for their OTC medications. Many impact models not only account for those increased doctor bills, but also the fact that many doctors more familiar with the latest prescription-only remedies may steer patients to those more expensive therapies.
According to the Foundation for HealthSmart Consumers, if only 10% of consumers opted to see their doctors for an OTC prescription, overall heathcare costs would increase $4.5 billion in one year. If 50% of consumers opted to see their doctors, the projected additional costs skyrocket to more than $27.7 billion.
Wake up, vendors: Retailers are getting on top of private-label game
WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — "Try the brand of health-and-wellness products our pharmacists recommend," reads a new ad from Walgreens that hit Sunday papers this past weekend, extolling the virtues of the Walgreens store brand. This should serve as a wake-up call to the vendor community — particularly, over-the-counter manufacturers — that retailers are putting a greater emphasis on private label than ever before. Walgreens clearly is investing big dollars with this campaign to promote it like a national brand, to send a message to consumers that its brand is "quality [they] can trust."
(THE NEWS: Walgreens shows ‘there’s a way’ with private-label offerings. For the full story, click here)
Like it was ever easy for an item to earn a place on the shelf, much less stay there. The news certainly raises the stakes on OTC vendors’ need to communicate back to the retailer and the consumer why their brands are important and why they belong on the shelf and in the basket.
The innovative vendor will use every means available to communicate that message or die trying. What’s your message to the retail buyer? What’s your message to the corner office? What’s your message to the pharmacists in the store and the nurse practitioners in the clinics that have the power to move your product off the shelf and into the market basket every day?
Let this serve as a wake-up call.
So … you awake yet?
Retail pharmacy can promote disease prevention as healthcare leaders
WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — It stands to reason that as the first line of health care in the community, retail pharmacy can place itself at the forefront of efforts to promote prevention of disease.
(THE NEWS: HHS secretary announced $750 million investment in prevention, public health. For the full story, click here)
The Department of Health and Human Services’ investment in prevention and public health creates a huge opportunity for pharmacy retailers to put their skills and expertise to good use in efforts to prevent disease, particularly those that result from lifestyles, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
And now that pharmacists can administer vaccinations, they can help prevent the spread of infectious diseases as well, all the while educating customers about the products and services they offer that help prevent disease and promote healthier living.
Food retailers that operate pharmacies are particularly well-positioned because they can promote the products and services at the pharmacy, while also promoting better eating, especially if they have in-store dietitians and other programs to promote healthy diets.