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Deloitte reports rise in spending index for February

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — The Deloitte Consumer Spending Index rose to more than 4% during the month of February, thanks to slight improvements in two sectors.

The index attempts to track consumer cash flow as an indicator of future consumer spending and is comprised of four components: unemployment claims, tax burden, real wages and real home prices. It rose to 4.02% from 3.92% in January.

Alison Paul, vice chairman and retail sector leader for Deloitte, said that looking ahead, retailers unsurprisingly are concerned about rising costs. “Retailers should consider costs across the entire supply chain, from strategic sourcing at the back end to the technologies and analysis they use for monitoring inventories and product movement at the front end,” Paul suggested.

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Harris Teeter gears up for Operation Medicine Drop

BY Allison Cerra

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Harris Teeter has teamed up with local law enforcement to help consumers dispose of unused or expired medications.

The supermarket operator said Operation Medicine Drop, which is scheduled for March 26, allows customers to drop off unused or expired medications at 1-of-6 Harris Teeter locations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., where law enforcement from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Huntsville police departments will dispose of them properly. Levine Children’s Hospital of Charlotte, N.C., also is participating in Operation Medicine Drop.

For a list of which Harris Teeter locations are participating in Operation Medicine Drop, click here.

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Walgreens doesn’t need PBM to keep it at top

BY Rob Eder

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — A lot was made of Walgreens’ sale of its pharmacy benefit management business to focus on its stores and the other parts of its business, with some analysts and pundits suggesting CVS should or might soon follow suit. Whether or not CVS Caremark decides to do the same remains to be seen, but it certainly isn’t the foregone conclusion some have suggested it might be.

(THE NEWS: Walgreens says farewell to PBM business. For the full story, click here)

Ever since CVS purchased Caremark, Drug Store News has maintained that these are two companies — CVS Caremark and Walgreens — that are more or less trying to skin the same cat two different ways. CVS believes it can use a big PBM to win business from big payers; Walgreens believes it doesn’t need a PBM to do that, and has had some success negotiating directly with big payers, including the pharmacy deal it signed with Caterpillar in 2010 and the scores of employers that have engaged its Take Care work-based health solution.

That part really hasn’t changed. Who has built the better mousetrap? These companies are the Nos. 1 and 2 in our industry, and there is no sign of that changing any time soon.

You can’t necessarily draw a lot of conclusions about what CVS will do or should do with Caremark based on Walgreens’ decision to sell its PBM. It’s just not an apples-to-apples comparison; in fact, it’s more like apples-to-grapes. With the recent deal, Catalyst Health only will become the fifth-largest PBM in the country, and the drop-off between No. 4 and 5 is precipitous, to say the least. Mail order was just 2.5% of Walgreens Health Initiatives’ business. It just wasn’t a big business for Walgreens, and on that level maybe you could say that its PBM was a distraction. The PBM is clearly worth a lot more to CVS.

Does that mean CVS stays in the PBM business forever? Not necessarily — just don’t look for a lot of omens as to what CVS will or won’t do based on what Walgreens has done or plans to do. In fact, the company has carved out a reputation for “zigging” when Walgreens “zags.”

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