PHARMACY

With law ban, marketing system for Rxs is safe… for now

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — The law targeting data mining in Vermont, along with laws in New Hampshire and Maine, would have forced drug companies to significantly change the way they market drugs to physicians had the Supreme Court allowed them to stand in the case of Sorrell, Attorney General of Vermont, et al. vs. IMS Health Inc., et al.

(THE NEWS: Supreme Court strikes down Rx data mining law. For the full story, click here.)

When pharmacies fill prescriptions, they sell the data to such data mining companies as IMS Health, replacing patients’ identities with numbers but including their ages and genders, while retaining the prescribers’ names. The data mining companies then sell those data to drug companies, for which the data are critical to their marketing efforts because they allow the companies to determine such things as the demographics of various disease states, thus making it easier for them to tailor their sales pitches to physicians. IMS also provides a handy source of data for the charts illustrating sales and dispensing of drugs that frequently adorn the pages of Drug Store News.

But data mining has become controversial lately. In January, the Los Angeles Times ran an editorial attacking the practice, asserting that it violated patient privacy and expressing fears that it would allow drug companies to track individual patients. The controversy has led to efforts to enact laws that regulate it, requiring doctors’ consent before pharmacies can release prescribing data to data mining companies.

The Vermont law was well-intentioned in many ways: It was designed to encourage more prescribing of generic drugs by limiting the amount of data that branded drug companies can obtain, thus leveling the playing field. It’s well-known that generic drugs are cheaper for patients and can lower the cost of health care, but the Supreme Court decided that the law violated the free speech of drug companies and such data mining firms as IMS. As such, a critical component of the marketing system for prescription drugs appears safe, at least for now.

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PHARMACY

Consumers look for fresh at the local pharmacy

BY Michael Johnsen

BOSTON — More and more success at retail is contingent upon delivering what the consumer wants, when she wants it, where she wants it and at the price she wants it.

According to a panel of consumer manufacturers and retail executives from Navarro Discount Pharmacies and Rite Aid, she wants fresh, health and wellness all neatly packaged with a value-priced bow. And she wants it in the drug channel.

The question is how to deliver that opportunity of fresh, how to overcome challenges across consumer channel perception and how to incorporate fresh into a supply chain that feeds smaller footprints.

“We’re going to focus on health and wellness as an opportunity [and explore] how some of our members are actually looking at health and wellness within their portfolios,” Denny Belcastro, EVP industry affairs and membership services for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, told attendees Sunday morning at an event jointly hosted by GMA and the ational Association of Chain Drug Stores.

Delivering on promises of health and wellness has been an ongoing trend across food manufacturers, and there is no better conduit in tying healthy lifestyle and eating together than the community pharmacist. Unless you couple that pharmacist with a chef.

That’s what Navarro Discount Pharmacies did some six months ago when it named Chef Pepín, a TV personality, cookbook author and philanthropist, as the company’s celebrity spokesman. “We define wellness as helping to improve the lives of our customers,” explained Jose Alvarez, VP merchandising at Navarro.

Chef Pepín has become a core component of Navarro’s Diabetes Club, which focuses on nutrition, exercise and prevention for adults and children. Through live in-store demonstrations, Chef Pepín helps educate parents and children about good eating habits, what foods to eat and what foods to avoid.

The chef doesn’t conduct these healthy-living demonstrations in a vacuum, either. “The pharmacist is engaged in the front end, and that’s the most important piece,” Alvarez said.

Smaller, convenience-oriented retail footprints lend themselves to effectively bridging that gap between the backbench and the front end. One of the challenges, however, has been consumer perception — can fresh product or dairy be had in the drug channel at prices comparable to their supermarket or superstore counterparts?

Consumers today aren’t necessarily making that connection, but that’s the opportunity, noted Bill Renz, Rite Aid VP consumables. A food trip represents one more opportunity to add to the market basket. “Dairy is a great example of that, if you can grab that extra dairy trip,” Renz said, because there are a lot of items that can go into that basket with the dairy trip.

Rite Aid is breaking down that perception barrier in the Carolinas with its partnership with Supervalu on Rite Aid/
Save-A-Lot stores. Rite Aid’s deal is unique in that the company is partnering with hard-discount grocer Save-A-Lot, a factor that establishes a well-known and growing food store brand within Rite Aid’s four walls of health and wellness.

Click here for more on how convenience and gas retailer Sheetz is changing consumer perception.

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Pfizer receives complete response letter for Remoxy

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — The Food and Drug Administration has declined to approve an investigative painkiller made by Pfizer, the drug maker said Friday.

The FDA issued a complete response letter for Remoxy (oxycodone) extended-release capsules, which Pfizer is developing under a partnership with Pain Therapeutics. Pain Therapeutics originally developed the drug using Durect’s Oradur technology, which is designed to prevent tampering by drug abusers, in collaboration with King Pharmaceuticals. Pfizer took control of development of the drug when it acquired King in February.

The FDA issues a complete response letter when it has finished reviewing a regulatory application for a drug, but remaining questions preclude final approval.

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