PHARMACY

Health Mart reaches 2,500 stores as it readies national ad campaign

BY Jim Frederick

SAN FRANCISCO Health Mart, the hard-charging independent pharmacy network owned by McKesson Corp., Wednesday celebrated a milestone: The addition of its 2,500th pharmacy. The announcement came roughly four years after the chain — which then numbered just 300 or so stores — unveiled plans to expand into a nationwide franchise pharmacy operation composed of McKesson’s strongest and most innovative pharmacy operators.

By any definition, that goal has been met. Health Mart now operates in all 50 states and, by its corporate parent’s reckoning, comprises the fourth-largest drug store network in the United States. The company has built a broad menu of clinically oriented health and wellness services for its customers, as well as a range of capabilities that give it some of the national branding, marketing and purchasing strengths of a corporate-owned pharmacy chain.

Among those strengths: A common and widely recognized national image at its 2,500 independently owned stores, third-party contracting and reimbursement services, centrally coordinated in-store merchandising programs, and growing clout in purchasing and promotions.

In line with that growth, Health Mart also announced it will launch a major national ad campaign at the end of the month. The campaign will debut with TV spots in 77 markets during the Grammy Awards telecast Jan. 31 on CBS, and will include multiple spots during the Super Bowl on CBS and NBC’s broadcast of the Winter Olympic Games from Vancouver. The campaign will conclude with ads during the Academy Awards telecast March 7 on ABC.

The TV ads will “highlight the personal care and services…such as diabetes counseling and testing” offered by Health Mart stores, according to the company. The campaign will feature 30- and 15-second commercials featuring a new Health Mart Town creative concept.

“Health Mart pharmacies focus on providing great customer service, as recognized by J.D. Power and Associates in 2009,” said Health Mart president Tim Canning. “This new advertising campaign highlights the emotional connection our pharmacists have with their customers, and it showcases that devotion to a national audience, while spotlighting the fact that Health Mart Pharmacies are practically everywhere.”

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Novartis’ Vasella to focus on being chairman, bows out from CEO role

BY Alaric DeArment

BASEL, Switzerland Daniel Vasella will step down as CEO of Novartis to focus on his position as chairman, with pharmaceutical division head Joe Jimenez taking his place, the Swiss drug maker announced Tuesday.

The leadership change comes amid news that the company had net sales of $44.3 billion in 2009, a 7% rise over the year before, along with an 8% rise in profits, to $10.3 billion. Among individual divisions, generics arm Sandoz saw a rise by 5%, when factoring in currency exchange rates, along with 12% for pharmaceuticals, 39% for vaccines and diagnostics –– driven by sales of the H1N1 vaccine –– and 5% for consumer health.

“Novartis delivered an excellent performance in 2009, driven by strong underlying growth across our entire healthcare portfolio,” Vasella said.

That includes more than 30 new product approvals in the United States, Europe and Japan, including the launch of the schizophrenia treatment Fanapt (iloperidone) and Japanese approvals of the diabetes treatment Equa (vildagliptin), the hypertension drug Exforge (valsartan and amlodipine) and the kidney cancer drug Afinitor (everolimus).

All of the divisions expect to grow in 2010 except for vaccines and diagnostics, which expects lower sales than in 2009 despite expected approval of the meningococcal meningitis vaccine Menveo. The company also expects to acquire a 77% stake in the eye-care company Alcon from Nestle and subsequently acquire the remaining 23%.

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Oral painkiller approved in line with FDA’s unapproved drugs initiative

BY Alaric DeArment

ROCKVILLE, Md. The Food and Drug Administration has given the green light to an oral painkiller as part of its unapproved drugs initiative, the agency announced Tuesday.

The FDA approved Roxane Labs’ morphine sulfate oral solution in the 100-mg-per-5 milliliter and 20-mg-per-milliliter strengths for the relief of moderate to severe, acute and chronic pain in opioid-tolerant patients.

 

The FDA granted the approval under a program that began in March 2009 to regulate so-called “grandfathered” drugs – mostly narcotics – that have long been prescribed without approval because they entered the market before the agency adopted its current regulatory policies.

“An important goal of the unapproved drugs initiative is to make sure that marketed drugs meet current FDA standards,” FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research deputy director Douglas Throckmorton said. “Our action today reflects a careful balance between ensuring patient access to necessary medicines, while making sure companies comply with the law.”

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