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Economy puts Publix under pressure

BY Michael Johnsen

LAKELAND, Fla. The economic forecast continues to look overcast as more and more pressure is placed on corporate profit margins — Publix, one of the Sunshine State’s leading grocers on Friday reported a 6.3% decline in earnings on sales growth of 2.2%.

“The economy continues to affect our results and stock price,” stated Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw — the company’s privately-held stock sold only to Publix employees fell $0.65 to $15.55 with the announcement. “We look forward to an improving economy,” Crenshaw said.

Publix operates 1,005 supermarkets, 720 of which are in Florida, a state that relies heavily on tourism. It’s not so much that fewer tourists equals fewer shopping trips to the local supermarket, as it is fewer tourists equals fewer tourism jobs — jobs that help feed the local economy.

The Florida unemployment rate is currently 9.7%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for March, compared to 8.5% nationally. And that unemployment is expected to continue to pressure supermarket sales.

“The industry is at the beginning (of) its sales challenges rather than toward the end,” Pali Research analyst Robert Summers stated in a recent research note. And that means that grocery sales are expected to “drop further and remain negative longer than they did during the last downturn.”

And while all the media attention currently surrounding the possibility of an H1N1 flu pandemic certainly doesn’t bode well for tourism, news reports regarding Florida’s inadequate supply of antivirals may actually prove to be a boost of sorts for Florida pharmacy operators, should that need arise. According to reports, Florida only has 120,000 courses of Tamiflu in its stockpile, compared with the 1.7 million courses the federal government recommended the state purchase to prepare for a pandemic. Federal stockpiles are designed to supply flu medicine to 15% of any given state’s population.

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Emerson Group announces newest associate

BY Allison Cerra

WAYNE, Pa. The Emerson Group is pleased to announce the addition of Liz Stefanik to the company. Stefanik will contribute to the business in the Western region, as Emerson goes direct with all customers in the region.

Stefanik brings more than 17 years experience in sales, broker management, category development and management, and business development to Emerson. She was most recently with Novartis Consumer Healthcare as a national account manager, where she managed all aspects of Safeway Corp.

Stefanik was also employed by GlaxoSmithKline for 12 years where she worked in the Chicago area, alternating roles as regional account manager and analyst. In this capacity, she moved to California, an an integral part of the team managing Safeway.

“We’re very excited about having Liz join our group. Her skills and experience will help us to continually improve our capacity to deliver the industry leading service and expertise our client partners have come to expect,” says Rick Wellinger, president of the Emerson Group.

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CVS Caremark develops Prior Authorization pilot program

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK CVS Caremark’s pilot program with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is yet another major step forward for e-prescribing, as it enables a new level of efficiency in the physician-pharmacy interaction.

What has, in the past, been a cumbersome process of paper forms, faxes and phone calls now will be an easier and more integrated process for e-prescribers in this program with the use of CVS Caremark’s iScribe Web portal. In fact, CVS Caremark cited a study’s findings that indicate clinicians and their office staff spend an average of 4.6 hours a week fulfilling requirements of the prior authorization process.

As the article states, this pilot program, which uses functionality built by Surescripts, is among the first in the nation to target widespread use of an ePA product in order to understand the true impact on the prescribing process.

As previously reported by Drug Store News, Surescripts recently announced that more than 100,000 physicians have jumped aboard the e-prescribing. By the end of 2008, there were 74,000 doctors actively prescribing electronically, compared with 36,000 at the end of 2007. This means that physician adoption has increased more than 100% between 2008 and 2007.

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