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Dept. of Defense considers tobacco ban

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON The Department of Defense on Monday posted a blog asking service men and women to comment on the potential usage ban of tobacco products across the military, stating that more than 30% of active-duty military personnel and about 22% of veterans use tobacco products, versus a 20% usage rate among the general public.

One suggestion raised within the ensuing comments was to pull tobacco products out of military exchanges, which are generally managed by AAFES. “It is time for Health Affairs to request that tobacco no longer be sold in military commissaries and BX/PX,” suggested one officer. “Why are we subsidizing this? Unlike alcohol, tobacco is a known carcinogen and there is no safe dosage. Forcing members to purchase tobacco on the economy is a very effective tool in reducing usage.”

“On the economy” is military parlance for general public retail, where retail prices are generally higher than those offered through military-only retail outlets.

The DoD stated that the rate of tobacco use in the military has increased since 1998, threatening to reverse the steady decline of the last several decades and smoking rates among military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan may be 50% higher than rates among non-deployed military personnel.

DoD spends more than $1.6 billion per year on tobacco-related medical care, increased hospitalizations, and lost days of work, the agency stated.

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Drug retailers post June figures

BY Rob Eder

NEW YORK Drug store chains Walgreens and Rite Aid each reported June earnings Thursday.

For Walgreens, a combination of more 90-day prescription customers and a shift that added an extra weekday to the June 2009 calendar, helped drive sales up 9 percent for the month, with pharmacy leading the way.

According to the company, the total number of prescriptions filled in comparable stores grew 7.5 percent, including a 1.5 percent increase attributable to more patients filling 90-day prescriptions. Meanwhile, as patients generally fill more prescriptions on weekdays than weekends, the addition of the extra weekday this June, accounted for a 2.2-percentage-point increase in the total number of scripts filled in comparable stores.

The extra scripts helped drive Walgreens’ pharmacy same-stores sales comps up 5.8 percent for the month, this despite being negatively impacted by generic substitutions to the tune of some 4.4 percent for the month.

The calendar shift also helped drive stronger overall comps, with same-store sales up 3.4 percent overall despite a softer seasonal business versus June 2008, which helped keep front-end comps in the negative, down 0.9 percent.

In all, Walgreens generated total sales of more than $5.24 billion for the month of June versus $4.8 billion during the comparable year-ago period.

So far, for the year-to-date Walgreens’ sales fiscal 2009 sales are tracking at nearly $52.87 billion for the first 10 months of its fiscal year 2009, up 7.4 percent from $49.24 billion a year ago.

Meanwhile, fellow drug chain Rite Aid reported same-store sales down 0.6 percent for the month, as a 1.4 percent increase in pharmacy comps was not enough to offset a 4.5-percent drop in front-end comps, for the four weeks ended June 27. And for Rite Aid, the hit from generics proved a bit sharper, shaving 484 basis points from its pharmacy comp numbers, the company stated.

Excluding the impact from the Brooks-Eckerd stores it acquired, same-store sales in core Rite Aid stores would have been flat during the month of June, with front-end comps down 4.4 percent and pharmacy comps up 2.6 percent. Same-store sales at the acquired Brooks Eckerd stores declined 1.8 percent in June, with front-end comps down 5 percent and pharmacy comps down 0.7 percent.

In all, Rite Aid’s total sales decreased 2.5 percent during the month, to $1.97 billion versus $2.02 billion for the same period a year ago. Year-to-date, Rite Aid’s total sales through the first 17 weeks of the company’s fiscal 2010 are down 1.5 percent to $8.48 versus $8.61 the same time a year ago. To date, same-store sales are tracking up 0.3 percent for the year, with a 1.6-percent lift in pharmacy comps feeding a 2.3-percent decrease at the front-end of the store.

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Take Care opens new Scottsdale clinic

BY Rob Eder

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Walgreens’ clinic division, Take Care Health Systems, announced the addition of its newest clinic here Thursday.

The new clinic, located at the Walgreens store at 7011 East Shea Blvd., in Scottsdale, Ariz., makes No. 19 in the area for Take Care. In all, Take Care currently operates 346 retail-based clinics in 35 different markets.

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