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Resolutions jump-start diet aid, anti-smoking product sales

BY DSN STAFF

More than $100 million will be spent on New Year’s resolutions this month, according to a report issued by the Nielsen Co. in December. According to the company, U.S. consumers are expected to purchase more than $61 million in anti-smoking and smoking-alternative products and more than $46 million in nutritional diet aids in January.

For the 52 weeks ended Nov. 3, sales of anti-smoking products increased 3.3 percent to $707.1 million across all channels (including Wal-Mart), according to the Nielsen Co. Corresponding diet-aid sales were $473.6 million (not including sales of GlaxoSmithKline’s alli), reflecting a slight decline of 0.5 percent.

“As New Year’s Eve marks the end of the holiday party season, shoppers take their resolutions straight to the stores,” stated Todd Hale, senior vice president of consumer and shopping insights at Nielsen Consumer Panel Services. “Manufacturers of anti-smoking products and nutritional diet aids should brace themselves for a banner month.”

January is destined to be a banner month regardless—this is the first year dieters resolving to lose weight can pick up GSK Consumer Healthcare’s over-the-counter diet aid alli.

Because it’s a diet aid that’s advertised as “not for everyone,” GSK Consumer Healthcare this year will embark on a different kind of New Year’s education campaign to appeal to the many consumers who are resolving to lose weight in 2008.

And there’s no better time than January. According to a survey of 2,058 adults, conducted in late November by Harris Interactive on behalf of GSK, 52 percent of Americans said they plan to make a serious attempt to lose weight this year.

Sales of anti-smoking products and diet aids

Most profitable monthMost profitable weekSource: The Nielsen Co. across food, drug and mass (including Wal-Mart)
Category Dollar sales* % change Sales period
Anti-smoking $707.1 3.3% 52 weeks ended Nov. 3
Diet aids 473.6 –0.5 52 weeks ended Nov. 3
Anti-smoking 61.6 2.3 4 weeks ended Jan. 27, 2007
Diet aids 47.0 91.8 4 weeks ended Jan. 27, 2007
Anti-smoking 7.7 42.1 week ended Dec. 9, 2006
Diet aids 12.9 9.0 week ended Jan. 13, 2007
* in millions

“[January] is the time of year when adults are really bombarded with weight-loss claims, messages and promises [that] lead to a lot of confusion and frustration,” noted Isha Williams, GSK’s senior brand manager of alli. “To make this year different, [GSK is] providing adults with free access to registered dietitians and pharmacists so that they can ask those experts any questions they have about their weight-loss resolutions and get guidance about safe and proven strategies for weight loss.”

GSK’s program is unlike the bikini-clad before-and-after ads that typically flood the market. GSK underwrote free access to expert advice from healthcare professionals as part of its promotion of alli.

From Jan. 4 through Jan. 7, alli sponsored its “Make This Year Different,” a weight-loss event designed to make it easier for consumers to access expert advice.

Dieters were able to access that free healthcare advice with one phone call—866-551-DIFFERENT—where they were connected to either a dietitian or pharmacist. Prerecorded diet, nutrition, behavioral and exercise tips also are available through the phone line, and that information remains accessible through Jan. 31.

Individuals also were able to visit www.MakeThisYearDifferent.com between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. EST for live online chats with dietitians or pharmacists, in either a private or group chatroom discussion. The Web site features diet and exercise videos and answers to common questions about the alli weight-loss program.

Dieters value such education, GSK stated, though they rarely take advantage of it—73 percent of U.S. adults who plan to make a serious attempt to lose weight in 2008 believe that outside help from a dietitian, pharmacist or other healthcare professional would help them achieve their weight-loss goals, but only 13 percent plan to seek such support.

In all, anti-smoking and smoking alternative products generated 8.7 percent of annual dollar sales in January last year, an above-average share, while nutritional diet aids generated 9.9 percent of their annual dollar sales during the same period. In both products.

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S&P revises outlook on Rite Aid

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services revised its outlook on chain drug retailer Rite Aid to negative from stable, the firm reported Friday. At the same time, S&P affirmed the ‘B’ corporate credit rating on Rite Aid.

“The outlook change reflects the company’s weak same-store sales and our expectation that this trend will continue over the next few quarters,” stated Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Diane Shand. Rite Aid faces a more cautious consumer, strong growth of lower-priced generics and intense competition, she said. In addition, the current environment could make it more challenging for the company to integrate its recently-acquired Brooks/Eckerd stores.

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Boston Mayor decries in-store health clinics

BY Antoinette Alexander

BOSTON On the heels of the Massachusetts Public Health Council approving regulations allowing for in-store health clinics in the state, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is reportedly looking to ban the clinics from opening in the city.

The decision by the health council “jeopardizes patient safety,” Menino said in a written statement, according to a Boston Globe report. “Limited service medical clinics run by merchants in for-profit corporations will seriously compromise quality of care and hygiene. Allowing retailers to make money off of sick people is wrong.”

The newspaper also reported that, in a separate letter, the mayor urged members of the city’s Public Health Commission to consider banning the clinics from opening within Boston. CVS has plans to open 20 to 30 MinuteClinics in the Greater Boston area but it is unclear how many of those would be within the city’s limits.

Defending its decision to allow clinics to operate, the state Public Health Council issued a statement that read: “The members of the Public Health Council were deliberative and thoughtful in their review of the limited service clinic regulation. We believe these types of clinics, operated either as part of a retail operation or in a nonprofit setting, can provide the public access to safe, convenient, and quality care for minor health issues.”

Officials at MinuteClinic were not immediately available for comment.

On Jan. 9, the state Public Health Council approved rules for limited service medical clinics. The new regulations took effect immediately.

“This is a new model for health care delivery that can benefit many people in the Commonwealth. These regulations will improve consumer convenience and make it easier for non-profit organizations to establish satellite clinics in a variety of settings to serve vulnerable populations,” stated secretary of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby in a statement issued after the approval.

Added John Auerbach, commissioner of the Department of Public Health and chair of the PHC, “Properly regulated, these types of clinics will serve an important function, making care for minor medical care more convenient. The council was mindful of not wanting to create a stand-alone system of health care, so these regulations require coordination and linkages to primary care providers.”

The approval came at the end of a long review process that included two public hearings and the submission of hundreds of pages of testimony regarding the regulations, including testimony in favor of the clinics from the Convenient Care Association.

“We appreciate the Public Health Council’s careful deliberation regarding the adopted regulations that will now guide the operation of limited services clinics in Massachusetts. These retail-based clinics are providing consumers in 35 other states with easy access to high-quality, affordable health care in the face of a nationwide primary care physician shortage. Since this growing shortage is well documented in Massachusetts, and its related health care access issues have been exacerbated by the state’s near-universal healthcare coverage, we appreciate the Council embracing limited services clinics as a partial solution to these serious problems,” said Web Golinkin, president of the CCA and chief executive officer of in-store clinic operator RediClinic, in a statement issued after the council’s decision.

Sparking the move to create specialized regulations for these clinics was CVS’ application to open a MinuteClinic in one of its stores in Weymouth. According to the council, early in the application review process it became clear that DPH regulations governing medical clinics did not address the operation of medical clinics with limited scope of services. Rather than consider applications requiring numerous waivers from full-service clinic regulations, the department decided to create a specialized set of rules.

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