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Swine flu: Next flu season could be a busy one

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK —While news around the novel H1N1 influenza virus, also known as the swine flu, dominated airwaves earlier this month, U.S. health officials began preparing for a return visit of the virus this fall when the 2009-2010 cough-cold-flu season kicks off in September.

And that should mean a busy season in the coming year, especially as it pertains to the sale of hand sanitizers, N-95 face masks and flu vaccines (at least for the seasonal flu currently in production), as well as more questions for pharmacists and retail clinicians from concerned patients.

It also should mean a busy fall for pharmacists dispensing prescriptions for Tamiflu and Relenza. New antiviral prescriptions dispensed at retail pharmacies totaled 277,000 for the week ended May 1, more than 19 times higher than the earlier week, according to SDI’s Sentinel Laboratory Network. During the season, new prescriptions reached as high as 155,000 during the week ended Feb. 27.

A return of the H1N1 influenza this fall, in conjunction with incidences of typical seasonal influenza, is expected to generate plenty of consternation among the public. Already the CDC has picked up an increase in seasonal flu cases this late in the 2008-2009 season, though mostly as a result of increased testing that is uncovering seasonal flu cases that would have gone unreported otherwise.

“It maybe foreshadows what we have to face next fall, when seasonal strains of influenza are likely to circulate, and we may see this H1N1 strain come back, perhaps, in worse or milder form,” said Anne Schuchat, CDC’s interim deputy director for science and public health.

As of May 12, there were approximately 3,600 probable and confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza across 46 states and the District of Columbia with three deaths and possibly as many as 116 hospitalizations. The median age of those patients remains low, at 15 years, with a range of 1 month to 86 years. Almost two-thirds of confirmed cases fall under the age of 18 years.

Coming into mid-May, however, concern over an H1N1 pandemic began to wane. Even as the CDC’s number of confirmed cases continued to grow, SDI data found that for the week ended May 8, the number of new antiviral prescriptions dispensed at retail pharmacies dropped to 118,578—down 59% compared with the week prior. Tamiflu accounted for 90% of those prescriptions.

Now the CDC is looking ahead. “We’re also preparing for the fall, including exploration of vaccine development and manufacturing discussions,” Schuchat said. One concern is that the novel H1N1 virus that is susceptible to antivirals Tamiflu and Relenza will mutate and resurface as resistant to Tamiflu and Relenza.

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CVS opens Beauty360 No.3 in one of its original Project Life stores

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK — If anyone thinks that CVS has recast itself solely as a healthcare company, given its string of acquisitions in recent years — particularly, Caremark and MinuteClinic — they probably haven’t seen a Beauty360 store yet. In fact, standing in the middle of one of these 3,000 sq.-ft., high-end beauty boutiques, you might have a hard time recognizing you were in a CVS store at all.

Beauty360 is the culmination of the long-time vision and an awful lot of hard work on the part of several key individuals, most notably, CVS’ top merchant Mike Bloom, VP beauty merchandising Cheryl Mahoney, senior beauty category manager Mary Lou Gardner and Mike LePage, director, retail innovations and store design. Importantly, it is also a very bold statement that, for as much energy as CVS Caremark devotes to driving solutions that save lots of money for big payers of health care, it is very much still focused on its stores, and using other areas beyond health and wellness to spark innovation and create reasons for customers to shop their stores.

You want to talk about growing the market basket? How about adding a whole other basket? With prices on many items topping $100, Beauty360’s contribution to overall store profitability is palpable. According to CVS executives, sales in the two other locations the company operates in Mission Viejo, Calif., and Washington, D.C., are well ahead of expectations.

And why wouldn’t they be? No woman in her right mind, with at least a minute or two to spare, isn’t going to check out Beauty360 — particularly in the ritzy neighborhoods the chain is putting the stores in. The average household income in Mission Viejo is roughly twice the national average; in terms of shopping, Fodor’s calls Dupont Circle “a younger, less staid version of Georgetown — and almost as pricey”; and the newest Beauty360 in Ridgefield, Conn., is surrounded by seven-figure homes. Bloom says CVS is planning to a whole bunch of them into the former Longs stores it is currently converting, which includes many more posh areas to pick from.

With just 30 of the stores planned by the end of the year, and about 50 by this time next year, it likely will be a while before the impact of Beauty360 begins to be seen in CVS’ earnings. In the meantime, you can expect sales per square foot to balloon in the stores that share a roof with a Beauty360.

Beauty360 is an important message to its competitors that CVS hasn’t forgotten about the importance of creating excitement in its stores.

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SDI launches iPhone, iPod application for allergy sufferers

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK The addition of SDI’s Pollen.com allergy applications to the growing number of iPhone/iPod touch-friendly, health-related applications is just the latest example of how an e-health evolution is more and more becoming a part of America’s daily lexicon.

 

Already, there are more than 100 health-related applications available for the Apple products, including FDA for iPhone and WebMD Mobile. According to Apple COO Tim Cook, those apps are available to some 37 million users — that’s how many iPhones and iPod touches are currently on the market.

 

 

Concerned about what exactly those food additives in your favorite snack are? There’s an app for that. Worried about your blood pressure or heart rate? There’s an app for that. Want to know what your blood-sugar level means? There’s an app for that, too.

 

Indeed, while SDI was preparing for its official Pollen.com iPhone app launch, two Northwestern University teams took home the top two prizes awarded in the Diabetes Mine Design Challenge last week. The challenge? Develop an iPhone app that diabetics could use to help manage their condition.

 

Next month, Apple plans to release an updated iPhone 3.0 with support for Bluetooth-enabled medical peripheral devices, like Johnson & Johnson’s LifeScan glucometer. And while Apple is updating its iPhone capabilities, Palm will be introducing its Palm Pre, slated to debut June 6 on the Sprint network. The Palm Pre is expected to give Apple’s iPhone a run for its money, but at the very least, it’ll open the door of health-related mobile apps to that many more users.

 

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