NACDS, Walgreens conference ‘Successful’
WHEELING, Ill. —Greater integration with Walgreens and the chain’s go-to-market strategies, additional breakout sessions and a robust lineup of program speakers all helped spell success for this year’s NACDS Successful Selling Walgreens New Vendor Days program held here in February.
“The thing we keep hearing is that there is no other place that people have to get this kind of information, and they deem it extremely valuable in their work,” said Fitz Elder, NACDS chief member relations officer.
The sold-out event, held Feb. 16 to 18 at the Westin Chicago North Shore, attracted a total of 228 participating vendor companies. This year marked the third year for the conference, but the second year that the association coordinated with Walgreens’ “New Vendor Days” program. This partnership with Walgreens resulted in 869 one-on-one appointments—each lasting 20 minutes—between vendors, Walgreens category managers, brokers, sales and marketing consultants, and other business development organizations.
Amajor component of the event was four core educational presentations that were co-presented with a Walgreens executive. These sessions included: “Ready to Market: Getting the product right;” “The Great Presentation: What it takes to get retailers to say ‘Yes;’” “The High Hurdles: Other things you need to know and do;” and “Driving the Business/Ensuring the Sell-Through.”
“There were a significant number of people who came to the conference for the educational purpose only and were already doing business with Walgreens but felt that the education itself helped justify their being there,” Elder said.
A new component was an end-of-day breakout session that enabled attendees to candidly discuss the day’s learning programs in a more private setting. In addition, Walgreens executives held one-on-one meetings focused on nine separate segments of the business, including item/vendor, replenishment, accounting and advertising.
Walgreens set to expand distribution capacity
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.”
Congress takes up follow-on biologics bill
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.