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Political war chest raises pharmacy profile in Congress

BY DSN STAFF

WASHINGTON —Bolstered by a political war chest that could break the $3 million mark by next year’s elections, campaign fundraisers for the nation’s community pharmacies are starting to give the drug store industry a noticeably higher profile on Capitol Hill.

During the first nine months of this year alone, political action committees organized by the nation’s drug chains and independent pharmacists collected more than $954,000 to help Congressional candidates who support the industry’s positions on key legislative issues.

Those fresh funds are in addition to more than $1.4 million in the industry’s PAC treasuries that was left over from the 2006 federal elections.

During that campaign retail pharmacy political fundraisers largely chose to remain on the sidelines, preserving much of the cash collected during the previous two years. Indeed, an exclusive Drug Store News analysis of industry PAC activity during the last Congressional campaign (Drug Store News, Oct. 23, 2006, page 3) found that with barely two months to go before the 2006 elections only about one-fourth of the money collected by these groups had been donated to individual candidates.

This time around it’s a different story. The industry’s PAC men are showing a willingness to loosen their purse strings and contribute to key House and Senate candidates.

According to the most recent reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, as of June 30 the eight fundraising committees organized by drug chains and independent pharmacy owners had made more than $570,000 in contributions to Congressional candidates—well over half of the total funds collected by these PACs since the last elections.

Contributions that are received early in the election cycle are particularly welcome because these funds can be used during the primary election campaign period—a time when money is tight.

But even though the industry’s political fundraisers are off to a fast start in terms of early contributions, they still have plenty more to use in support of candidates in 2008.

With the first state primaries and caucuses for the 2008 national elections rapidly approaching, PACs sponsored by Rite Aid, Walgreen, CVS, Longs, Kerr Drug, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association were collectively in control of a combined political war chest totaling more than $1.7 million.

Although the industry’s political action committees are officially non-partisan groups, during prior elections drug store PACs have tilted heavily toward Republican candidates. Drug Store News’ analysis of campaign fundraising activities during the 2006 elections, for example, found that 69 percent of the industry’s contributions went to GOP candidates.

This time around, though, the political tables are turned. With Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and running all of the key legislative committees of concern to community pharmacy, the lion’s share of the industry’s campaign support is being earmarked for the left side of the political aisle.

According to the latest information obtained by Drug Store News from the Federal Election Commission, 63 percent of the money contributed by drug store industry PACs to House and Senate candidates for the 2008 election went to Democrats.

That figure was even higher for the NACDS PAC, which favored Democrats over Republicans by a 69 percent-to-31 percent margin.

Independent pharmacists are also tilting toward Democrats, with 65 percent of the NCPA PAC’s donations so far going in that direction. Fundraisers for Walgreens also favored Democrats heavily by a 68 percent margin, while the two PACs operated by CVS/Care-mark were a bit friendlier to Republicans, committing 44 percent and 47 percent of their funds to GOP candidates.

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Stick Me Designs adds style to glucose meter bags

BY Michael Johnsen

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. Stick Me Designs, an emerging accessory designer of diabetes glucose carrying cases for women, teens and children, announced the launch of their glucose meter bag collection Friday.

“While the medical supply industry is busy working on adding color, convenience and function to their meters, they’ve forgotten the most important aspect of their portability—the carrying case,” stated Rickina Velte, founder of Stick Me Designs. “We’ve taken on the task of infusing design, style and function that adds personality to an everyday necessity for people with diabetes.”

The new diabetes bags offer choices in color, fabrics, design and functionality.

The first collection features four contemporary designs created for the One Touch Ultra glucose meter and other more traditional larger-style testing meters. The bags have elastic placeholders for lancet devices, testing strips and glucose tabs or candy. They also feature interior open and zippered pockets for such everyday essentials as credit cards, identification, money, sanitizing wipes and an outside zipper pocket for other essentials.

Stick Me Designs’ introductory collection also features hand-selected faux suedes, designer upholsteries and cotton fabrics in retro and contemporary styles and colors.

Suggested retail prices will range from $32.99 to $45.99, the company reported.

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Continucare opens first clinic at Navarro

BY Antoinette Alexander

MIAMI Continucare Corp. has announced the opening of its first ValuClinic in-store health clinic within a Navarro Discount Pharmacy in Hollywood, Fla.

Similar to many other retail-based clinic models, the walk-in clinic will treat acute conditions and will be staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

According to Gabe Navarro, chief executive officer of the Miami-based pharmacy chain, Continucare was on the verge of opening a few locations in the recently acquired Sedano’s stores, so Navarro proceeded with the openings.

In October, it was announced that Navarro Discount Pharmacy would merge its operations with Sedano’s Pharmacy & Discount Store. Sedano’s is a Hispanic drug retail company with 11 pharmacies in the southern Florida market. Combined, the entity has more than 30 stores with annual revenues of more than $350 million. All of the stores are operating under the Navarro banner in the southern Florida market.

According to Navarro, plans call for Continucare to have three ValuClinics open in Navarro stores by the end of the year. It expects to have a total of 15 clinics in operation in 2008.

In late 2006 it was announced that Navarro had partnered with Express Clinics to introduce in-store health clinics to the southern Florida market; however, it is possible that partnership will come to an end.

“It is uncertain whether Express Clinics will continue to operate clinics in our stores,” Navarro told Drug Store News. “[We] should know more in the coming weeks.”

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