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A maturing segment, trading cards present profit

BY Mike Duff

Over the years, trading cards matured as they became collector’s items coveted by adults. Trading card manufacturers recognize the shift and have responded accordingly, creating cards that celebrate events outside of sports and entertainment.

For example, Upper Deck inserted 10 Historic Firsts commemorative cards as collectors items inside its recently launched 2009 Upper Deck Series One Baseball card collection and will follow with a nine-card set dubbed Historic Firsts Predictors that looks ahead to potential developments through the year.

Inserts are a big deal in trading cards these days. Special cards, including autographed cards and those with attached swatches of player uniforms that have been in games, are provided in a limited number of packs to make them more attractive to collectors, and they drive sales, said Upper Deck spokesman Terry Melia.

Enthusiasts know that their next purchase could just bring them an item they can treasure or trade for a profit on e-Bay, so placing trading cards in front of shoppers is important to maximizing sales and profit potential. “Upper Deck works with its retailers and distributors in providing displays that fit into their existing spaces in high-profile areas,” Melia said. “We also request that most of our products get placed ‘up front’ where employees can keep an eye on them, which cuts down on possible theft.”

Collectibles concern The Topps Co. as well. It developed a Barack Obama commemorative trading card series in time for the presidential inauguration. The 90-card series documents Obama’s childhood through his rise to the White House.

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Walgreens set to expand distribution capacity

BY Jim Frederick

WOBORN, Mass. Walgreens is expanding the distribution capacity at its Mt. Vernon, Ill.-based distribution center by adding more portable robotic picking devices and upgrading many of its traditional conveyor-based systems into automated zones for sortation and movement of items to be shipped.

Walgreens uses the Kiva Mobile Fulfillment System from Kiva Systems in Mt. Vernon to store inventory and pick replenishment orders for its 6,700 stores and specialty pharmacies. Expanding the system in that distribution center puts nearly 1,000 mobile robots under a single roof, according to Kiva.

The upgrade marks the third expansion of the robotic picking system at the center since its initial deployment in 2007, Kiva noted. It also heralds a doubling of the throughput capacity at the center, the company reports.

“Productivity metrics from previous rollouts far exceeded Walgreens’ specifications for pick rate, accuracy, cycle time, tote utilization and installation time,” said Kiva CEO Mick Mountz. “By doubling capacity we expect Walgreens to quickly achieve an extraordinary new level of strategic competitive advantage and productivity.”

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Congress takes up follow-on biologics bill

BY Drug Store News Team

The long-awaited breakthrough for follow-on biologics may be close at hand.

Prompted by a far more supportive President and the growing crisis in healthcare funding, Congress has again taken up the call for a bill that would create a regulatory pathway for FDA approval of generic versions of biologically-engineered drugs. And with the strong affirmation of President Obama, who has campaigned for such an approval pathway, the newest iteration of the bill stands a far better chance of passage than previous attempts in the House and Senate.

The Promoting Innovation and Access to Life-Saving Medicine Act could mark the most significant change to the delicate balance of power between the branded and generic drug industries since passage of the landmark Hatch/Waxman compromise bill in 1984, which ushered in the modern era of me-too medicines. Tellingly, one of the new bill’s sponsors is an architect of that 1984 legislation, Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California.

The push for follow-on biologics augers well for both health plan payers and patients coping with the sometimes staggering costs of critically important but expensive pioneer biologics, and for the generic drug industry itself as it faces a critical shortage of new marketing opportunities as the number of blockbuster drugs facing patent expirations dries up. A new pipeline of me-too biologics could help fill the gap.

“With countless patients struggling to pay the high costs of brand biopharmaceuticals, an approval pathway for safe, effective and affordable biogeneric medicines that provides access sooner rather than later is desperately needed,” stated Kathleen Jaeger, president and CEO, Generic Pharmaceutical Association.

Cost-saving considerations aside, there’s no disputing the business potential follow-on biologics represent. Bio-engineered pharmaceuticals and specialized, highly targeted medications aimed at serious chronic or life-threatening diseases represent the only major bright spot right now in the global pharmaceutical market, with growth rates that far outpace the sluggish market for mainline meds. Indeed, most of the drugs that have reached blockbuster status in recent years have been biologically engineered specialty meds.

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