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NACDS members, HHS Secretary meet as 2015 health insurance enrollment nears

BY Antoinette Alexander

ARLINGTON, Va. — With open enrollment for the 2015 health insurance plan year set to begin on Nov. 15, National Association of Chain Drug Stores members were invited by Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell to participate in a pharmacy issues meeting on Friday with the secretary, HHS officials and pharmacy stakeholders at HHS headquarters in Washington, D.C.  

NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson released the following statement regarding NACDS’ engagement in the meeting:

“We appreciate the opportunity to participate in the pharmacy issues meeting with Secretary Burwell today. Patients rely on their pharmacies as trusted sources of information on healthcare topics, so NACDS again will make it a priority to work on a collaborative basis to help present clear and accurate information to patients — to empower their healthcare decisions in the still-new health exchange landscape. NACDS also has appreciated the opportunity to comment formally to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and to make recommendations intended to create a smooth start for new exchange enrollees seeking prescription drug coverage in the 2015 plan year.

“This is similar to pharmacy’s patient-focused collaboration in the lead-up to the January 2014 roll-out of exchange-based insurance. It also reflects pharmacy’s similar work in the roll out of Medicare Part D, in the response to H1N1, in vaccination-awareness efforts, and in providing necessary goods and services during natural disasters.

“NACDS members also valued the chance today to continue the discussion of opportunities to leverage the value of pharmacy in other areas. These include familiar and important functions like the dispensing of medication and helping patients take their medications correctly, as well as opportunities to make new and better use of the extensive education of pharmacists for the good of patient care.

“We took the opportunity to urge continued vigilance in the ongoing effort to create a fair and accurate pharmacy reimbursement structure to help ensure medication access for Medicaid beneficiaries.

“We also took the opportunity to discuss medication therapy management, which uses face-to-face interaction with a pharmacist to help patients take medications as prescribed. We are pleased that the HHS proposed rule issued earlier this year included an expansion of MTM services within the Medicare Part D program, indicating support for reforms to help pharmacy better serve its patients.

“Pharmacists are widely trusted and extremely valued by patients in the greatest need. Pending bipartisan legislation illustrates the strong support for leveraging pharmacy services to help care for the nation’s most vulnerable patients. With 116 cosponsors, H.R. 4190 would designate pharmacists as healthcare providers under Medicare Part B, to empower them to provide services in medically underserved communities, as allowed by state laws.

“NACDS appreciates the growing recognition of the importance of pharmacies as the face of neighborhood healthcare, and looks forward to continuing to expand partnerships designed to foster patient education and quality patient care.”

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Sales go up in smoke in tobacco debate

BY Michael Johnsen

Canadian pharmacy retailers are up in arms in British Columbia, threatening to take legal action against the College of Pharmacists of BC if the group attempts to block tobacco sales in their stores. It's a juxtaposition between advocating for health in all parts of the pharmacy and being responsible to the shareholders of the company. 
 
To sell or not to sell? That has become the question in both Canada and the United States. 
 
The answer is not as easy. Here in the United States, sales of cigarettes reached $14.5 billion in total multi-outlets with relatively flat growth of 0.3%, for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 5 according to data provided by IRI. Sales of all tobacco products totaled $15.9 billion. As anyone who's sat in on a budget meeting knows, if you're going to remove that significant of a line item from the ledger, then you need to have a plan in place to make up the difference. So if tobacco goes, what replaces it? Also, if tobacco goes, which one of your competitors benefits the most?
 
It's not even as simple as giving up on a retailer's fair share of a billion-dollar business, because it's not a dollar-for-dollar loss. Those retailers would lose those customers and that marketbasket, too. And they'd lose that frequency of purchase. According to data released in January by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adult smokers smoked an average of 14.6 cigarrettes per day in 2012 — 41.2% of smokers smoked between 10 and 19 cigarettes daily, 31% between 20 and 29 and 7% more than 30. At 20 cigarettes per pack, that adds up to a lot of trips. 
 
In the United States, on one side of the debate is CVS Health, which recently booted tobacco sales from its pharmacies. President and CEO Larry Merlo acknowledged that CVS Health is facing a short-term headwind in terms of lost sales, but suggested that quitting tobacco will encourage future partnerships with healthcare companies down the road that will make up the difference. 
 
On the other side of the debate is, well, just about everyone else. And their shareholders — shareholders who may not be as inclined to ditch a business that generates income of that magnitude. There's also the full-circle argument to selling tobacco in a retail pharmacy setting. At least in that setting, those smokers (68% of whom want to quit) are exposed to smoking cessation merchandising and messaging. Convenience stores and tobacco shops don't provide that quit-smoking option. 
 
With about 250,000 retail establishments selling tobacco products in America today, retail pharmacies comprise only 4% of overall tobacco sales, Walgreens noted recently. From a practical approach, a retail pharmacy ban on tobacco sales would have little to no significant impact on actually reducing the use of tobacco. "Our goal is to help get the U.S. smoking rate, which has leveled off at around 18% of the adult population for a decade, moving lower again," Walgreens stated. 
 
Retail maverick Stuart Skorman, founder of the since-defunct Elephant Pharmacy, several years ago talked about taking the opposite approach — selling tobacco products exclusively through retail pharmacy. He argued that programs that would mandate the sale of tobacco exclusively through pharmacy, merchandised adjacent to the pharmacy counter and without the point-of-purchase signage touting the tobacco companies' wares, would do more to encourage quit-smoking attempts than not selling tobacco in the pharmacy at all. 
 
What do you think?
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Target Canada opens new stores in Ontario, Winnipeg

BY Antoinette Alexander

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario — Target Canada announced on Friday the official opening of three new stores in Canada, marking the final stores scheduled to open in 2014 and bringing to 133 the total number of Target Canada stores open across the country.

The new stores are located on St. Laurent Blvd., in Ottawa, Ont.; Sheridan Centre in Mississauga, Ont. and Polo Park in Winnipeg, Man.

“The opening of these three stores marks another important milestone for Target Canada,” stated Mark Schindele, president, Target Canada. “As we head into the holiday season, we’re thrilled to offer our guests additional locations to find exclusive merchandise, great value and a unique shopping experience.”

The three new stores feature a Starbucks, as well as in-store pharmacies. Each of the three new stores will also carry an extensive range of Target owned and exclusive brands, as well ongoing collaborations with Beaver Canoe (a member of the Roots Canada family), the Nate Berkus Collection, Sonia Kashuk and Pixi beauty collections and the recently announced, exclusive limited time only TOMS for Target collection, launching in Target stores on Nov. 16.

Starting in March, 2013, Target Canada began its Canadian expansion by opening 124 stores within nine months. In 2014, Target continued its growth in the Canadian marketplace by adding an additional nine stores, including the first ground-up builds at Toronto Stockyards, Park Place in Barrie, Candiac, Quebec and the Polo Park, opened on Friday.

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