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Technology could help patients kick bad habits

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Medication nonadherence is sort of similar to substance abuse: It’s a societal issue that stems from multiple causes and as such, probably will never completely disappear; however, it still can be mitigated. And because it stems from multiple causes, effectively combating it also requires multiple strategies.

(THE NEWS: HealthPrize, RealAge look at social media, gaming technology to improve adherence. For the full story, click here.)

But any effort to address nonadherence ultimately depends on the patient. Scaring patients about the dangers of not taking drugs properly only can go so far, especially considering that many patients are nonadherent for reasons that may scare them more immediately than those dangers, such as high costs and unpleasant side effects. But HealthPrize has found that leveraging technologies that patients use — such as smartphones and the Internet — to give them rewards for taking their drugs as directed by prescribers can go even further.

In a January study of 20 patients, the company found that adherence among patients who received cash rewards and got to play interactive games was 88%. And in a March survey of 100 physicians, respondents said they were 30% more likely to prescribe a medication that included a program with adherence incentives than to prescribe a medication that didn’t.

The possibilities go beyond HealthPrize’s platform. The integration of Ford Motor’s SYNC technology and WellDoc’s services creates another avenue through which people can be encouraged to take their drugs properly. And for retailers, incentives for adherence are a natural fit, with possibilities ranging from discounts to cash rewards to sweepstakes to online and mobile games.

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Walgreens continues to raise beauty bar

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then there are plenty of folks beholding Walgreens and its New York palette, Duane Reade. So it should come as no surprise that Walgreens is positioning its heavy hitters against the beauty category, given the number of recent changes Walgreens has made across its beauty facing.

(THE NEWS: Walgreens makes changes to beauty, personal care merchant teams. For the full story, click here.)

What it should tell you, though, is that Walgreens is going to continue to raise the beauty bar in U.S. drug store retailing. If you’ve ever visited a Duane Reade in the capital of beauty — New York City still serves as the fashion runway in this country — then you know how eye-catching that DR beauty set has become.

That upscale staffed beauty department services all aspects of beauty, including brows with a Ramy-branded brow bar that offers in-store eyebrow-shaping services. The Look Boutique also offers shoppers an inviting fragrance area featuring a handful of the most popular fragrances tethered to an upscale-looking counter.

And Walgreens is beginning to expand that Look Boutique experience nationwide, attracting shoppers in search of premium beauty solutions in the process. Leveraged against that merchandising position are Walgreens’ 26,000-plus beauty advisers and the expertise that will soon come from its online beauty engine, Beauty.com, with its recent acquisition of Drugstore.com.

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Fred’s net income increases 16%

BY Allison Cerra

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Fred’s net income increased 16% to $9.5 million, or 24 cents per diluted share, compared with net income of $8.2 million, or 21 cents per diluted share in the year-earlier period.

The retailer said that total sales rose 3% to $484.4 million from $471.6 million for the same period last year. For comps, Fred’s reported a 1% rise on top of a 2.2% increase for the first quarter last year.

Fred’s gross profit for first quarter 2011 increased 1% to $137.9 million from $136.9 million in the prior-year period.

During the first quarter, Fred’s opened one new store and four pharmacy express locations and closed seven underperforming stores and one pharmacy express location as part of its 2011 operating plan. Additionally, one franchise also was closed during the quarter. The company also remodeled and refreshed 56 stores with its new Core 5 elements in the quarter, bringing the total stores upgraded to 264 during 2010 and 2011.

Looking ahead, Fred’s expects its earnings per share to increase between 8% and 23% for the second quarter to a range of 14 cents to 16 cents.

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