HEALTH

Independents blast Walmart-Humana plan

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The independent pharmacy industry is crying foul over a new plan by Walmart and insurance giant Humana to steer seniors to Walmart stores via a steeply discounted Medicare Part D prescription drug plan that gives preferred rates to Walmart pharmacy customers.

In a fast and furious response to Friday’s launch of the Humana Walmart-Preferred Rx Plan, the National Community Pharmacists Association blasted the retail giant for what it asserted is a heavy-handed attempt to gain market share through its massive financial firepower. The new PDP, NCPA asserted, “imposes higher co-payments on seniors who choose to continue using their trusted local, community pharmacy.”

Walmart and Humana jointly unveiled the Preferred Rx Plan this morning, roiling a Medicare Part D prescription drug market that currently serves some 18 million seniors who rely on PDPs for their prescription services. The new plan offers Medicare beneficiaries a single national monthly plan premium of $14.80 –– less than half the national prescription drug plan average, according to some estimates –– and a co-pay of just $2 on many generic drugs.

The caveat: Those rates are only offered through Walmart, Sam’s Club and Neighborhood Market pharmacies.

NCPA president Joseph Harmison was incensed. “This is simply Walmart’s latest ‘loss leader,’ intended to bring more people through its doors at the expense of patient care and quality customer service,” he charged Friday. “Patients taking a brand-name drug or [those] who can’t or don’t want to take a therapeutic substitute for the drug their doctor prescribed may see little, if any, savings.”

“What’s more, patients are being financially coerced to get their medications at Walmart stores, which make up less than 7% of all of the retail pharmacies in the United States,” Harmison added. “As NCPA reviews the Walmart plan, we intend on reading the fine print. For example, we want to ensure the plan adheres to Medicare’s marketing and plan guidelines. We also will learn more about how the plan may disadvantage other pharmacies and their patients and will respond accordingly.”

NCPA’s president charged that Walmart’s pharmacy customers have to put up with long waits and “assembly-line service,” particularly to take advantage of the retailer’s $4 generic drug offer. “By contrast, independent community pharmacies earned among the highest customer satisfaction scores of all pharmacies” in the most recent customer survey from J.D. Power and Associates, Harmison asserted. “That’s due in large part to the sterling customer service and competitive pricing that these local pharmacies offer.”

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Drug Store News once again hosts annual Industry Issues Summit, Diabetes Roundtable

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK Drug Store News is presenting in November in New York its 12th annual Industry Issues Summit and eighth annual Diabetes Roundtable — a must-attend event that attracts leading industry players and will feature a special celebrity speaker.

This year’s Industry Issues Summit will be held Nov. 30 at the New York Athletic Club, which is located just a stone’s throw away from Central Park. Over the years, the Industry Issues Summit has become a critical industry event, and this year’s gathering will prove to be especially important in light of healthcare reform, the economy and its impact on consumer shopping behavior, and retail pharmacies increasingly taking a proactive role on the frontlines of U.S. health care.

Larry Kudlow, host of CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report,” will be the keynote speaker. Kudlow, who for many years served as chief economist for a number of Wall Street firms, will be presenting “Never Sell America Short: Free-Market Capitalism and the American Economy.” Kudlow is a nationally syndicated columnist and also hosts his own blog. He is a contributing editor of National Review magazine, as well as a columnist and economics editor for National Review Online. He is the author of “American Abundance: The New Economic and Moral Prosperity,” published by Forbes in January 1998. He also serves as CEO of Kudlow & Co., an economic research firm.

“This one-day event will provide unprecedented access to a multiple list of leading-edge retailers from many formats that will enable sponsors a unique opportunity to share in the dialogue about retailer-supplier best practices, alignment strategies and industry growth opportunities. Drug Store News is also pleased to make our Industry Issues Summit and Diabetes Roundtable an annual event that is held every year during ‘NACDS Week’ in New York City, which times nicely with several key committee meetings and highlights with the NACDS Foundation Dinner,” said Wayne Bennett, publisher of The Drug Store News Group.

Retail panelists for this year’s Issues Summit will include top executives from H-E-B, Costco, Max-Wellness, Rite Aid, Wegmans, Ulta Beauty, Walgreens, Sam’s Club and Ace Hardware.

Retail panelists for the Diabetes Roundtable include top executives from McKesson’s Health Mart, Wegmans, H-E-B, Giant Eagle, AmerisourceBergen, Rite Aid, Kerr Drug and Cardinal Health.

Current sponsors include Pacific World, Takeda, Pharmavite, TABS, Catalina Marketing, Alberto Culver and Nipro Diagnostics.

To register, visit DSNIndustryIssues.com. For more information on sponsoring the Issues Summit and/or Diabetes Roundtable, contact Wayne Bennett at wbennett@drugstorenews.com or call (212) 756-5157.

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NACDS, NCPA praise congressional passage of safe drug-disposal legislation

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Two groups representing the nation’s pharmacies lauded the passage of the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act by the Senate and House of Representatives.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association announced their support of the bill, which fosters collaboration between pharmacies, consumers and law enforcement for the safe disposal of unused drugs. The National Community Pharmacist Association developed its own voluntary prescription drug-disposal program, called Dispose My Meds.

“Prescription drug abuse is at epic proportions in many parts of the country, and community pharmacists are uniquely positioned to help Americans properly dispose of their expired and unused prescription drugs,” said NCPA acting EVP and CEO Douglas Hoey. “We commend members of Congress from both parties for coming together to approve this important legislation.”

NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson noted the organization welcomed "advancing the safe use and safe handling of medications."

“By steering clear of a drug take-back program mandate, Congress wisely prevented unintended consequences that could have undermined the health and safety of the public and of pharmacy personnel,” Anderson said. “NACDS appreciates the work of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Reps. Jay Inslee, D-Wash.; Bart Stupak, D-Mich.; Joe Barton, R-Texas; and Lamar Smith, R-Texas, to ensure that good public policy won the day on this important issue."

In related news, Walgreens on Thursday announced its first-ever safe drug-disposal program through a collaboration with Sharps Compliance, which has worked with the NCPA on the Dispose My Meds program.

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