PHARMACY

CVS Caremark again recognized for excellence in customer service

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS Caremark announced on Wednesday that the J.D. Power and Associates Certified Call Center Program has once again recognized the company’s Customer Care Centers for customer satisfaction excellence.

This marks the third time that CVS Caremark has received this distinction.

The Call Center Certification Program, launched by J.D. Power and Associates in 2004, is designed to evaluate overall customer satisfaction with call centers and to help call centers improve efficiency and effectiveness.

“This is a testament to our longstanding commitment to delivering industry leading customer service. I congratulate our customer care teams and all of our colleagues across the company who support them. As the nation’s leading provider of pharmacy services, we are proud of our customer care colleagues who work hard every day to help improve the quality of life for our customers,” stated Howard McLure, president of Caremark Pharmacy Services.

In order to qualify, a call center must perform within the top 20th percentile of all centers evaluated nationwide, based on benchmarks established by J.D. Power and Associates for courtesy; knowledge;  concern for the customer; usefulness of the information provided; convenience of operating hours; ease of reaching a representative; and timely resolution of issues. Call centers must also pass a detailed audit of their recruiting, training, employee incentives, management roles and responsibilities, and quality assurance capabilities. As part of its evaluation, J.D. Power and Associates conducted a random survey of Caremark’s customers who recently contacted its call centers.

Caremark Customer Care Centers in Arizona, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas are included in this certification.

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Seeking to enlist patients as advocates, NCPA launches online grassroots effort

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The nation’s top independent pharmacy organization has unveiled a plan to recruit patients themselves in a broad campaign to influence policy in Washington on behalf of community pharmacists.

The new initiative, dubbed Fight4Rx.org, is aimed to “recruiting and transforming patients into grassroots activists for community pharmacies,” noted the National Community Pharmacists Association, “by educating them on the vital role pharmacists play and the serious challenges they face in the delivery of health care.”

Fight4Rx patients will sign up through their local community pharmacies, some 1,000 of which have already begun recruiting patients, according to NCPA. The group has set an initial goal of enlisting 50,000 Fight4Rx patients by the end of 2009. That goal is “well within reach,” NCPA predicts. 

“America’s patients and their families greatly value their community pharmacists and the personalized services they provide,” said Bruce Roberts, EVP and CEO of the independent pharmacy organization. “Fight4Rx patients will have a new forum during the health care reform debate in Washington, DC. They will be able to research issues and speak directly to their legislators about key concerns affecting their access to prescription medication and services by their local community pharmacies.” 

Fight4Rx includes issue briefs on pharmacy patient issues, Medicare and healthcare news updates, and a video blog on the home page, www.Fight4Rx.org, with regular updates from pharmacy industry experts. Patients will receive a monthly e-mail newsletter that will update them on key pharmacy issues and breaking news. When necessary, Fight4Rx will encourage patients to contact their elected officials via a 1-800 number or e-mail. 

NCPA president Holly Henry said patients could become a highly effective ally in community pharmacy’s struggle for greater recognition and a level health care playing field. “I believe the Fight4Rx online community will lead us to fair and common-sense health care policies in the United States by empowering patients to let their voices be heard in establishing the pharmacy home of their choice,” said Henry, a Seattle-based pharmacy owner-operator.

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Merck & Co. reports gain for 4Q

BY Drug Store News Team

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. Merck & Co. said Tuesday announced it had a successful fourth-quarter profit, despite several setbacks over the past year.

The maker of vaccines, cholesterol drugs and asthma treatment Singulair reported a profit of $1.64 billion, or 78 cents per share. A year ago, Merck posted a loss of $1.63 billion, or 75 cents per share, after the company faced approximately 50,000 mainly product liability suits involving its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx.

Lower fourth-quarter costs for materials and production, and for restructuring, down to $103.1 million from $156.2 million in 2007, helped boost the bottom line.

Additional restructuring is anticipated for this year, as the pharmaceutical giant is expected to lay off about 5,300 more workers. Since December 2005, Merck has slimmed down by 10 percent, from 61,500 employees then to 55,200 at the end of 2008.

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