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Matcha green tea powder picks up on new trend

BY Michael Johnsen

RONKONKOMA, N.Y. — Piping Rock has brought a taste of traditional China to the United States with its introduction of Nature’s Truth Stone Ground Matcha Green Tea. Use of Matcha green tea extends all the way back to the Tang Dynasty. Made from the stone-ground leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, green tea has been attributed both to healthy brain function and metabolic health.

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According to the Sage Group’s market analysis on Matcha products released earlier this year, sales of products containing Matcha green tea are expected to grow 25% annually between 2015 and 2018.

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Weight-management solutions sought over dieting

BY Michael Johnsen

The weight-control category is growing at a healthy 4.5% clip with $3.3 billion across total U.S. multi-outlets for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 1, according to IRI. But with a third of the country still considered obese, according to the latest CDC statistics, there is still a significant opportunity to reach aspirational consumers — not with a weight-loss solution per se, but a weight-management solution.

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“Consumers are looking for guidance on how to control their weight, they are looking for products that work and work together as part of a simple yet effective plan,” Paul Gagliano, EVP sales at SlimFast, told Drug Store News. “Retailers can capitalize by merchandising products together and communicating to the consumer how the products work together as part of a plan.”

“While consumers are deeply interested in weight loss, their mindset has changed,” added James Chambers, president, CEO and director at Weight Watchers. “They want to get there in new ways. Less attractive is the approach of dieting and restriction. Rather, they are seeking solutions.”

This past fall, SlimFast launched 15 new items as part of the SlimFast Advanced line, including ready-to-drinks, powders, bars, 100-calorie snacks and a capsule to round out the complete SlimFast plan.

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Specialty Rx, evidence-based approach top 2016 trends

BY Jim Frederick

Look for highly targeted, biologically engineered drug therapies and a more integrated, teamwork-driven and evidence-based approach to medication therapy to dominate the pharmacy landscape in 2016.

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The rise of specialty drugs has had a profound impact on the pharmaceutical marketplace in recent years, and that impact will continue as drug manufacturers shift more of their research and development efforts to breakthrough biotech medicines and gene-based molecular research. And with the Food and Drug Administration having finally established an approval pathway for biosimilars, that surge will continue.

“New medicines … will be weighted to specialty and biologics,” noted Murray Aitken, director of the IMS Institute, in a November report on global pharmaceutical trends. “Patients will have greater access to breakthrough therapies and clusters of innovation around hepatitis C, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, orphan diseases and others by 2020.”

One such breakthrough in 2015 was Gilead Sciences’ Harvoni, a bioengineered treatment shown to cure, in most cases, hepatitis C. Harvoni captured the top sales spot among all U.S. pharmaceuticals in 2015, with nearly $9.5 billion in sales for the 12 months ended June 2015, according to IMS Health.

A huge focus for drug research and development in future years, Aitken added, will be breakthroughs in oncology. “Cancer treatments represent the largest category of the 225 new medicines expected to be introduced within the next five years,” he reported. Orphan drugs also will get more attention from pharmaceutical manufacturers, with the expected addition of “more than 470 drugs … available to treat orphan diseases for the 7,000 rare diseases with no or limited treatments available.”

New openings for generics

Also surging with renewed growth momentum is generics. Patent expirations will hit many more branded medicines, building generic drugs’ total share of the U.S. market to more than 9-of-every-10 prescriptions dispensed by 2020, according to IMS.

“Generics will continue to dominate prescription drug usage in the United States, rising from 88% to 91% to 92% of all prescriptions dispensed by 2020,” noted Aitken.

“Products facing loss of exclusivity in the next four years are valued at $78.4 billion [in annual sales],” predicted Doug Long, VP industry relations for IMS Health. The list includes AstraZeneca’s blockbuster Nexium for acid reflux and ulcers — which faced me-too competition for the first time in early 2015 — as well as Otsuka’s Abilify for bipolar disorder, ranked third among top-selling U.S. medicines in mid-2015 with $7.2 billion in annual sales, according to IMS. Other big-selling medicines facing patent-loss challenges include Teva MS treatment Copaxone and Forest Labs’ treatment for Alzheimer’s and dementia, Namenda.

Aligning pharmacies and health systems

On the retail front, pharmacy retailers are in a rush to ally themselves with hospitals, local and regional health systems, physician groups and health plans as they campaign at the federal and state level for full provider status and full membership in today’s new model of collaborative, team-based health care. Generally, pharmacy leaders are basing their efforts to elevate pharmacy’s position and partner with other providers on core competencies that most chains and independents are already fully equipped for and capable of providing, including medication therapy management, immunizations and medication adherence programs for patients.

“We’re moving to a value-based healthcare system where providers, hospitals and other organizations are going to be paid based on their ability to both generate positive outcomes and control costs,” said Anne Burns, VP professional affairs for the American Pharmacists Association. “New care delivery models, such as patient-centered medical homes, are expanding across the country. Pharmacists are increasingly being incorporated into these models as members of inter professional healthcare teams that collaborate and better coordinate the care of their patients.”

Both national and regional drug chains — not to mention independent pharmacy retailers and their wholesale service partners — pushed hard in 2015 to expand their ability to boost medication adherence rates among millions of patients through pharmacist-administered and data-enabled adherence programs, often in collaboration with regional health systems, individual hospitals and health plans. With evidence mounting that those efforts pay significant dividends in improved patient outcomes, reduced hospital readmission rates and lower overall health costs, those efforts continue to gain momentum.

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