Countdown begins for HIT legislation
T-minus 10 – 9 – 8…
That’s more or less where federal lawmakers are at right now on a new economic stimulus bill that could have wide-sweeping implications on retail pharmacy; and not the kind where consumers wind up with a few extra bucks and spend some of it at the drug store, either. This could cost retail pharmacy big time.
Figure by the time you read this, the clock will be at about 8-and-counting. Well, maybe 9, depending on whom you’re talking to. And that’s a good thing. Because at least now there is time to do something about it.
On Tuesday, Jan. 6, members of the 111th U.S. Congress met for the first day of a new session in Washington, and as has been widely anticipated, its first official act of business is to come to a speedy resolution on a quick solution to turn around our failing economy, in time to make signing this potentially groundbreaking new piece of legislation the first official act of our 44th president. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., came in calling it Congress’ “first, second and third priority,” and he certainly was not alone in his sense of urgency.
But as they got a bit further into it, others, including Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., began to realize that, the bigger and more complex this thing becomes—and more expensive—the less likely that Congress will come back with a plan in time for Inauguration Day; President’s Day may be more realistic.
One thing that has been loaded into this in the name of economic stimulus is a healthcare information technology component. And as much as Drug Store News favors the widespread adoption of HIT—as it is a fundamental component of what will be required to evolve health care in this country from its highly fragmented present state to a system where providers actually communicate with each other, patients actually get better and payers actually get what they paid for—it needs to be part of a separate discussion. It’s not quite so simple as flipping the switch on a new road somewhere. HIT is far from “shovel ready” as they say.
As bad as America needs the help right now, it needs to get this right even more. Democrats understand this fully well; they know that in many ways the future success of every plan and every reform they have may be hanging in the balance. A screwup here easily can derail any spirit of nonpartisanship that might exist across the aisle right now, to say nothing of the buy-in of the American public.
The point of economic stimulus must be to stimulate the economy and create the 3-million-or-so jobs Obama’s team has said it can deliver over the next couple of years.
HIT is far too big, too important and too complicated to be a part of this economic stimulus plan. Not if the goal here is to come up with something to get the economy jumpstarted any time soon.
Right now, discussion among lawmakers of how to proceed with HIT has been mired in concerns about patient privacy, and there is a very real fear that any HIT legislation that could come as a result would most definitely mean a whole new round of privacy rules and regulations above and beyond what has already been mandated under HIPAA.
That brings a very logical question from retail pharmacy and other key healthcare stakeholders: So, what’s wrong with the HIPAA regulations? And that’s a good question, not just because HIPAA has cost millions of dollars and countless manpower hours to implement, but more simply because HIPAA seems to be working just fine as it is.
Champions for greater privacy safeguards have talked about measures, such as a new prior consent regulation, that would require any healthcare provider to receive a patient’s consent before he or she could use that information to improve that patient’s life considerably. That means, for instance, even if a doctor were to transmit a new electronic prescription for a newly diagnosed patient with heart disease or diabetes, the pharmacy could not use that information to try to determine if that patient might benefit from some sort of disease management program. You’d need the patient’s consent just to send him or her a lousy refill reminder. Otherwise, you’d be violating that patient’s privacy.
Then there’s the accounting of disclosures provision that’s being tossed around, which would require healthcare providers to keep detailed records going back several years, tracking each time a patient’s information was accessed and why.
In the meantime, HIPAA seems to work just fine, and last year, noncompliance and poor drug adherence cost this country an estimated $177 billion.
And so, retail pharmacy, the clock is ticking; T-minus 10 – 9 – 8…OK, maybe the clock’s still at 9. That’s a good thing. Because you still have time to tell your Congressmen to leave healthcare IT out of the present economic stimulus package.
Americans choosing homeopathy for cough/cold
NEW YORK Homeopathy doesn’t sell well at mass retail, when it’s homeopathy you’re trying to sell. That’s because homeopathy doesn’t rank very high in the mass consumer’s decision matrix, according to several suppliers of homeopathy medicines. What does rank high on that decision matrix is safety and efficacy. Mass consumers want to know that the medicine they’re taking does what it says it’s going to do, and when used as directed, that the medicine is going to make them feel better overall by not exchanging one set of symptoms for another set.
“In all the research we’ve done with consumers, the two main [factors] that they look for are ‘safe’ and ‘effective,’” Dale Nepsa, president of Hyland’s, told Drug Store News. “Homeopathy [as a concept] is way down the list after that,” Nepsa added.
That helps explain why homeopathy products more and more are finding a profitable space on the mass retailer shelf. The medicines are marketed more for what they are — safe and effective remedies that help relieve many of the same symptoms addressed by allopathic medicines — than for how they work.
However, the concept driving homeopathy also is gaining greater share — and not just because homeopathic remedies marketed against pediatric cough/cold is helping to fill the void vacated by allopathic remedies, around which concerns over safety and efficacy are circling. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, more than 95 of the nation’s 125 medical schools now require some kind of complementary and alternative medicine coursework, which includes homeopathy and, accordingly, brings homeopathy more into the fold of conventional medicine. “What pharmacists and other healthcare professionals are looking for is a product that has clinical efficacy,” commented Bob Silverstein, senior sales and marketing director with Origin Biomed. “Any reticence toward homeopathy that traditional pharmacists might have, we’ve been able to overcome just with the performance of the product itself.” Origin Biomed markets Neuragen PN, a relatively new product for nerve pain.
Homeopathy, as a concept, also is gaining traction with consumers. “They’re starting to know the word; they’re starting to understand it; they’re starting to have more faith in it,” Nepsa said.
But the controversy around allopathic cough/cold remedies for children certainly is driving interest in “alternative” remedies like homeopathic products — though consumers are more likely developing an affinity for relative brands than the concept of homeopathy. “Boiron has always depended very heavily on word-of-mouth,” noted Alissa Gould, public relations manager at Boiron. “And moms talk,” she said, making the situation surrounding kids’ cough/cold today a significant opportunity for homeopathic manufacturers. According to Mintel/Nutrition Business Journal projections, overall sales of homeopathic are expected to reach $1.1 billion by 2012, up from an estimated $831 million sales base in 2008.
The focus on marketing and merchandising homeopathy, much like their allopathic remedy cousins, also helps explain why some of the homeopathy suppliers today are seeking to generate some momentum around their brands in much the same way that allopathic companies do — similar to how McNeil Consumer’s brand Tylenol extends beyond analgesics into cough/cold, for example. Companies like Hyland’s, Boiron and Similasan are attempting to generate some brand equity around their corporate brands. Hyland’s has established itself in baby care with its teething and colic remedies, as well as within the kids’ cough/cold set with its Curious George-licensed cough/cold products, and is making headway with adult-oriented products like Restful Legs for restless legs. Boiron is beginning to expand its “hard-to-pronounce” flu remedy Oscillococcinum brand with new Oscillo offerings, and is extending its brand name across the aisle into analgesics with Arnicare. Similarly, Similasan with its long heritiage in ear care and eye care products, is attempting to extend its Similasan brand identity into insomnia and anxiety/stress relief.
“The opportunity [for homeopathy at mass] is first to identify those health conditions that can be effectively treated by homeopathy,” noted Curt Behrens, president of P2B, a sales and marketing company that represents Similasan. And more importantly for mass outlets, the opportunity is to identify those homeopathic treatments that can deliver more immediate relief, because that’s what consumers want. “The regimen has to match to consumer expectations,” said Behrens. “From a merchandising perspective, it’s important that homeopathic products are not segregated from traditional OTC treatments … because the consumer shops by condition and disease states, [but] they also shop adjacencies.”
To segregate homeopathy at mass retail would only serve that consumer looking for homeopathic treatments first. And that consumer doesn’t shop often enough in mass outlets to support a homeopathy destination center. “Even in health food, that homeopathic-driven consumer is only a small fraction [of that channel’s] total consumer base,” Behrens said.
Homeopathy as a destination center within mass retail has been tried, actually, and has failed miserably, a few suppliers noted, asking that the specific retailers who tried the concept not be called out. Homeopathy traditionally sells very well in specialty retail, where it is, in fact, sold more as a lifestyle for consumers in search of more natural alternatives in all aspects of their lives. That helps explain why homeopathy thrives as a destination center in those channels. It goes back to that decision matrix — specialty channel consumers have already familiarized themselves with and embraced the concept behind how homeopathy works, and consequently have placed homeopathy higher up on their decision matrix.
Another driver of homeopathy unique to specialty is the informed and educated customer service rep combing the aisles. For mass retail, that represents a significant investment in training and labor — an expense that grows proportional to the store base — that delivers only questionable returns.
B&L names Valenti president, North America
ROCHESTER, N.Y. Bausch & Lomb on Friday named Peter Valenti president, North America, Vision Care, effective later this month.
“[Valenti] possesses deep leadership experience, as well as considerable eye health and general healthcare expertise,” stated Stuart Heap, corporate VP and global president, Vision Care, Bausch & Lomb. “His appointment further strengthens our existing team, which is focused on delivering innovation in the contact lens, lens care and vision accessories segments of the industry.”
Valenti was most recently VP and general manager, Surgical Devices (U.S.), for Covidien, where he led sales and marketing strategy for its $1 billion product portfolio. Prior, he spent 12 years with Johnson & Johnson, serving in a variety of U.S. and international roles across consumer, pharmaceutical and device businesses. Before his career with Johnson & Johnson, he held several brand management roles with Procter & Gamble.
He earned an MBA from the Johnson School of Management at Cornell University, and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut. Valenti will be based in Rochester, N.Y.