HDMA to work closely with officials in H1N1 response
ARLINGTON, Va. The Healthcare Distribution Management Association recently sent a letter detailing the critical role of primary healthcare distributor members in the response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic to more than 100 officials, including governors and state public health directors, the association announced Tuesday.
The association noted its distributor members’ commitment to working closely with the CDC, state and local public health officials, healthcare providers, pharmacists and manufacturers to ensure that millions of antivirals and medical products are delivered safely and efficiently to pharmacies, physicians’ offices and hospitals nationwide.
To facilitate the continuous flow of information between public health officials and HDMA distributor members, HDMA provided a list of state-specific distributor company contacts, informing state officials that HDMA members are prepared to answer questions related to emergency preparedness efforts.
“The H1N1 outbreak last spring underscored that communication is key to maximizing our country’s ability to respond to this public health emergency — across the entire healthcare supply chain, and especially with federal, state and local health officials,” stated John Gray, HDMA president and CEO. “HDMA members are working with all of these key players, to facilitate the safe and reliable delivery of needed vaccines, medicines and supplies to respond to the current influenza outbreak, as they have done for decades.”
NPA testifies against illegal steroids
NEW YORK Here’s the breakdown: Two government officials representing the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency joined Travis Tygart of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (the body responsible for keeping performance-enhancing drugs out of U.S. Olympic athletes), Daniel Fabricant of the Natural Products Association and Richard Kingham, a litigator specialized in food/drug law, before a panel of senators — less to inform the Senate around the problem of steroids sold as dietary supplements, and more to be grilled by those senators as to why those products are actually on any market.
The senators were Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Arlen Specter, D-Pa., who played a sort of good cop/bad cop routine. Hatch was the good cop, at least as the dietary supplement industry goes, as he defended the legislation governing the regulation of dietary supplements that he helped draft some 15 years ago. Specter played the bad cop — questioning the regulatory priorities of the two governing bodies present, while raising the thought of adding more regulations to the FDA and/or DEA already-underutilized toolbox.
Following the hearing, dietary supplements emerged as the unwilling participants in all of this talk around performance enhancing supplements. You almost had to wonder why Fabricant was present, except to politely remind everyone that the dietary supplement manufacturers who actually distribute product through mass-channel retailers actually fought for (as in not against) such additional regulations as certified good manufacturing practices or mandated serious adverse event reports, and as such are not likely to field illegal products.
At stake in all of this is whether or not legitimate dietary supplement players ought to seek premarket approval, a condition that if ever really implemented, would decimate any future innovation in the almost $6 billion mass-channel business (according to the latest Nielsen Company figures). It’s also a condition that wouldn’t actually do much to pull those steroid drugs masquerading as supplements off the market, unless you expect those well-respected criminals to actually file an NSA (new supplement application) that contained ingredients that would not only land their consumers in the hospital, but would also land them in jail if ever actually discovered in the trunks of their cars.
The alternative, proposed by Hatch, is to place more resources behind enforcement of the laws on the book, as opposed to creating new laws that would more likely cripple legitimate manufacturers as actually inhibit outliers from selling steroids.
GNC seeks competitive edge with new store format
NEW YORK GNC is taking its boutique-style specialty shop to a whole new level, especially as it starts folding in product lines not normally part of a specialty supplement shop’s repertoire — yoga, pet supplements, probiotics, homeopathic health remedies, natural skin care, natural oral care and a wider assortment of arguably commodity-type supplement offerings, such as multivitamins and such popular health supplements as vitamin D or fish oil.
You’ve got to wonder, though, how much GNC’s relationship with Rite Aid is playing a part in all of this. GNC now has some 10 years under its belt in its partnership with Rite Aid, which means some 10 years of gleaning insights on how Rite Aid has successfully positioned that GNC store-within-a-store concept as a more profitable supplement center and a true point-of-differentiation.
It’s also been about two years since one of the Rite Aid executives who helped develop and nurture that GNC/Rite Aid concept in the beginning has been at the helm at GNC aspresident and chief merchandising and marketing officer. “GNC has a very unique position in the market,” Beth Kaplan told Drug Store News soon after she joined GNC. “GNC’s initial DNA is built around vitamins and supplements,” she said then, not just diet aids and sports nutrition.
It’s certainly a smart play — it’s more reflective of today’s healthcare mood as politicians continue to debate how to best infuse a cost-saving well-care sentiment in healthcare reform over the sick-care model that exists today. And it de-emphasizes perhaps the two more controversial categories GNC is currently best-known for — weight loss diet aids and sport nutrition supplements. They’re not abandoning those segments of course — it’s still going to occupy half the store’s footprint after all — and nor should they. They’re legitimate businesses when marketed and merchandised responsibly. But the fact remains that both weight loss and sports nutritionals are under greater scrutiny with today’s more-aggressive Food and Drug Administration and the controversy surrounding performance-enhancing drugs being illegally marketed as supplements — the subject, in fact, of a Congressional hearing held just last week.