HEALTH

Now available at Rite Aid: Pertussis immunizations

BY Allison Cerra

CAMP HILL, Pa. One week after Walgreens announced that it was offering pertussis immunizations at its California locations, Rite Aid has followed suit.

Rite Aid said Monday that pharmacists at more than 500 Rite Aid stores across the state will offer pertussis, or whooping cough, vaccinations to individuals ages 7 years and older. The disease already has claimed the lives of nine infants in the state and is on pace to become the worst epidemic the state has seen in 50 years.

Patients in California and across the nation can go online to RiteAid.com/pharmacy/immunization/ to locate the most convenient Rite Aid pharmacy where immunizations are available. Patients are urged to call first to check availability and for questions on health insurance, which may cover some of the cost of a vaccination. Walk-ins are accepted whenever possible.

Rite Aid has been offering Tdap, the whooping cough vaccination, for the past several years, and currently is available in more than half of the states where Rite Aid operates, a Rite Aid spokesperson said.

"Helping protect against whooping cough in California is just another example of how convenient neighborhood Rite Aid pharmacists can help the community stay healthy," said Robert Thompson, Rite Aid EVP pharmacy. "Administering these shots is part of Rite Aid’s expanded national immunization program, with more than 7,000 pharmacists in more than 3,000 stores vaccinating patients against flu, pneumonia and up to a dozen other highly infectious diseases."

Walgreens announced earlier this month that it was offering vaccinations for pertussis at 150 select stores in the state.

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GNC to sell branded retail, food-service equipment

BY Allison Cerra

LOS ANGELES General Nutrition Centers has inked a deal to sell its retail and food-service equipment with the help of IMG Licensing and The Legacy Cos.

IMG’s licensing agreement for GNC with The Legacy Cos. will give way to the creation of GNC-branded products, such as blenders and juicers, which will be distributed in the company’s stores. The products will retail from $150 to $400, IMG said.

The agreement will run through 2015.

“GNC has set the standard as an industry leader in the nutritional supplement business and is truly dedicated to helping its customers improve health and quality of life. Teaming up with The Legacy Cos. to expand its brand and create this new and exciting product line will continue to solidify GNC’s brand and its commitment to providing exceptional products and services to consumers,” said Tim Rothwell, IMG EVP and co-managing director of worldwide licensing.

Added GNC EVP Tom Dowd, “GNC is very excited to partner with a high-quality manufacturer that can produce a variety of products that complement the healthy lifestyle of our customers.”

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Drug stores’ success relies on customer service

BY Jim Frederick

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT In the never-ending battle for customer loyalty, independents rule and service is still king.

(THE NEWS: J.D. Power and Associates’ pharmacy study addresses cost, customer service. For the full story, click here)

The latest national customer satisfaction survey from J.D. Power and Associates showed that personalized, above-and-beyond service still outweighs price for a majority of consumers — even in a dour economy beset by economic uncertainty and joblessness. A majority of the more than 12,300 pharmacy customers polled by the big research firm in May and June of this year gave their highest satisfaction scores to pharmacists that took more time to answer their questions, help them find over-the-counter medicines and, perhaps, even remembered their names and family situations.

This, despite the growing cost sensitivity among Americans about the prices of their medicines and the out-of-pocket expenses they incurred at the pharmacy counter. As Jim Dougherty, J.D. Power’s director of the healthcare practice, put it in a conference call to discuss the survey results, “Pharmacies that are focused on service garner the highest levels of satisfaction … even in an environment where cost has become increasingly important.”

That’s good news for small-scale, owner-operated independent pharmacies. It’s also good news for the Big Three drug wholesale giants that operate the major networks of independents, franchised and otherwise, that scored the top results.

Again this year, survey respondents ranked independents tops in overall satisfaction. Customers gave their highest scores to Good Neighbor Pharmacy, the huge network of some 3,700 independents that operate under the buying, merchandising and store-support umbrella provided by distribution and health services giant AmerisourceBergen. The two largest groups of independent-owned franchises, McKesson’s Health Mart and Cardinal Health’s Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, ranked second and third, respectively, in the poll.

Among mass merchants, Target’s pharmacy operation got highest satisfcation marks for the fourth year in a row, while Publix rated tops among supermarket pharmacies.

Efforts to give the best possible service pay off, both in additional revenues and in measurable customer loyalty. Highly satisfied customers can bring in an additional $227 each year in prescription business, researchers found. What’s more, J.D. Power reported, “brick-and-mortar pharmacy customers who are highly satisfied … are more than three times more likely to say they ‘definitely will’ return to their pharmacy and 10 times more likely to say they ‘definitely will’ recommend their pharmacy to others, compared to customers with low satisfaction levels.”

That’s a lot of free word-of-mouth advertising.

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