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Kerr Drug education focuses on classes, Web site

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK —A retail pharmacy in the Carolinas has made combating diabetes one of its chief missions.

Kerr Drug, which operates more than 160 stores in North Carolina and the Charleston, S.C. area, has started a number of programs to address the diabetes epidemic, which affects 8 percent of the American population, according to the American Diabetes Association. With North Carolina facing the fifth-highest rate of diabetes in the country and rates that exceed the national median, the Raleigh, N.C.-based chain has focused much of its attention on education.

“Right now, we’re really trying to market it to our Medicare population,” said Ron DeVizia, manager of diabetes services for Kerr and coordinator of the company’s diabetes-education program. “I guess that was the start of it, of really trying to develop different services around diabetes for customers of Kerr Drug.”

The chain’s diabetes-education classes, which it offers at nine of its stores, have received recognition from the ADA, a distinction that 71 other programs in North Carolina share. Earlier this year, the ADA named Kerr the American Diabetes Association Provider of the Year.

Last August, Kerr launched a Web site, www.FightDiabetesNC.com, which features a diabetes forum that allows diabetes patients in the state to talk about their problems, seek assistance from the experts and help others. The site also features information on products, clinical information, relevant local news and events, and information for employers, as well as diabetes recipes and a self-test to determine if users are at risk. Its launch was part of an awareness-and-prevention campaign called “Don’t Gamble with Your Health,” centered on chronic disease.

The chain also has put together a diabetes guide, using information gleaned from pamphlets distributed at its diabetes-education classes. It covers such topics as what diabetes is, its symptoms, risk factors and how to keep up with diabetes care. The guide is available for free at its stores and on its Web site, www.kerrdrug.com. To fund its distribution, Kerr has sought vendors of diabetes-related products to buy advertising space in the guide, and healthcare providers, health departments and doctors in both Carolinas already have requested copies.

In addition to its education efforts, Kerr is a major corporate sponsor of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s annual Triangle Diabetes Walk-o-Thon, where it offers free blood sugar screenings. Although JDRF’s main focus is on Type 1, or juvenile-onset diabetes, the walk is for people affected by either type of the disease.

It also has sought to tie immunizations together with its diabetes efforts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetics face higher susceptibility to infections because of high blood sugar, which increases if they contract flu or pneumonia because of stress.

“The pharmacy is one of the most accessible healthcare facilities,” DeVizia said. “We’re really the front line.”

Kerr Drug isn’t the only retailer helping to combat diabetes, however.

CVS/pharmacy has created a section of its pharmacy intranet site that combines all the diabetes resources available to its pharmacy staff, including educational materials staff can give to patients and caregivers to help them understand the disease, monitor glucose levels and understand the different types of insulin. It also offers the CVS Glucometer Program, which gives customers with diabetes lacking health insurance free blood glucose testing meters.

Wal-Mart has started selling three ReliOn diabetes management products for $9, including the Ultima blood glucose meter, 20-count packages of blood glucose test strips and ReliOn’s A1c test. the mass merchandiser also offers several medications for patients with diabetes through its $4 generic drug program.

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