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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 Health Systems expands treatment for skin conditions, minor injuries

BY Allison Cerra

CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. Take Care Health Systems is offering a new set of procedures for skin conditions and minor injury treatments.

As part of this expansion of services, Take Care Clinics now offer the following procedures:

  • Wart removal with cryotherapy;
  • Skin tag removal;
  • Closure of minor cuts with dermabond;
  • Treatment of skin irritations (Contact Dermatitis); and
  • Expanded scope of skin evaluation and treatment for skin infections, injuries and rashes.

The addition of these new services is a result of feedback from patients, Take Care health providers and recent research, which identified a desire for the treatment of these types of skin conditions in the convenient care setting. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, over 48 million skin examinations are conducted each year, which result in 3.2 million viral wart procedures and 3.3 million skin tag removals.

“Patients are very satisfied with the service and offerings at Take Care Clinics, and we’ve found that they are looking for additional high-quality, convenient and affordable treatment options in our care setting,” said Peter Miller, Take Care Health Systems’ president and CEO. “We will continue to evaluate and implement new services which meet the needs of patients and can be offered with clinical excellence at Take Care Clinics.”

Take Care Health Systems currently manages 345 Take Care Clinics at Walgreens drug stores in 35 markets across 19 states.

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Importation amendment fails to advance, drawing NACDS praise for Senate panel

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. A move in the U.S. Senate to block legislation that would have allowed the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada and other nations drew quick praise Wednesday from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

The drug reimportation amendment, offered in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee as part of broad health care reform proposals, failed to advance by a vote of 12 to 10. In response, NACDS president and CEO Steven Anderson sent a letter praising the dozen committee members who voted against the proposal.

“This was an important legislative victory for patient health and prescription drug safety,” NACDS stated.

Senators opposing the reimportation amendment on the HELP Committee included Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Mike Enzi (R-Wy.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Ark.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).

In his letter to those committee members, Anderson reaffirmed that “NACDS is committed to reducing the cost of and increasing access to prescription drugs.” However, he pointed out, “We do not believe that patient safety can be ensured in any system that allows for the importation of prescription medications.

“In addition to questions concerning the safety and effectiveness of these drugs, those who obtain prescription medications through importation schemes do not have a qualified, licensed pharmacist available to consult with regarding safe and effective use of prescription medications,” Anderson told lawmakers.

The NACDS executive also argued that there are safer and more effective alternatives to reducing prescription drug costs for Americans. “Every day,” he wrote, “retail pharmacists assist customers with obtaining the most cost effective, therapeutically appropriate drug therapies, including affordable and effective generic drugs.”

In particular, said Anderson, “The generic dispensing rate at retail pharmacies is 64.5% – higher than any other pharmacy practice setting. We urge Congress to adopt policies that will bring more generic drugs to market and to create incentives for doctors to prescribe and pharmacies to dispense generic medications.

“One of the most critical ways to do this is by reforming the Medicaid ‘average manufacturer price’ system, which, as currently written, will reimburse pharmacies one-third less than what it costs them to purchase generic medications,” Anderson added. “Congress should create incentives for generic drugs, not disincentives.”

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