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Walgreens shifts Riedl to pharmacy post

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. Signaling its willingness to continue making big changes in its management structure as it works through a major overhaul of its merchandising and cost structure, Walgreen Co. has shifted its former executive VP of merchandising and marketing to a new post in charge of pharmacy improvement efforts.

The 6,658-store drug store and specialty pharmacy giant revealed today it has named George Riedl to the new post of senior VP of pharmacy innovation and purchasing in the pharmacy services department, effective March 1. Replacing Riedl as vice president of merchandising is Wal-Mart and Tesco USA veteran Bryan Pugh, who joined Walgreens in January as vice president of store format development.

Riedl is no stranger to pharmacy development efforts at Walgreens. “During his 27 years with Walgreens, George has led several areas in pharmacy services, e-commerce and purchasing,” said Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson. “He brings vast knowledge of our entire company to his new role, and his pharmacy experience uniquely positions him for taking the implementation of POWER forward and driving our transformation of community pharmacy.”

Nevertheless, Riedl’s shift in responsibilities – from seasoned leader of Walgreens’ vast merchandising program to transformational guru of its pharmacy revitalization and cost-cutting efforts – signals a dramatic change in management for the nation’s top drug chain. In his new role, he will oversee all pharmaceutical purchasing along with rollout of the POWER initiative, a project aimed at cutting pharmacy dispensing costs and enhancing patient-pharmacist interaction by offloading many dispensing duties like prescription and claims verification to centralized “hub” pharmacies.

In another move, Walgreens promoted 24-year company veteran Thomas Connolly to vice president of facilities development effective March 1, overseeing real estate, construction and facilities planning, design and engineering. Connolly succeeds senior vice president of facilities development Bill Shiel, who at age 58 has retired after a 38-year career with Walgreens.

“Bill spent most of his career building our retail store base into the powerhouse it is today, and we’re grateful to him for that accomplishment,” said Wasson.

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Obama may overturn Bush’s ‘conscience’ rules

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK The Obama Administration may overturn the Bush Administration’s “conscience” rules that allow healthcare workers to invoke religious beliefs to deny certain services such as birth control, according to published reports.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Barack Obama may roll back the provisions, which allow pharmacists to refuse to prescribe birth control pills on account of personal religious beliefs. 

Seven states have also filed lawsuits to challenge the rule, the newspaper reported.

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Clear up patient medication guidelines, independent pharmacy group urges FDA

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Community Pharmacists Association wants the government to give patients a clearer, more concise set of guidelines on how to take their medications, the effects those drugs have and the risks and benefits they carry.

The independent pharmacy organization yesterday urged the Food and Drug Administration’s Risk Communication Advisory Committee to push for a change in the current system of overlapping instructions that go to patients along with their prescriptions. In testimony before the committee, NCPA asked the agency to develop criteria for a guidance that would describe “a single, patient-friendly, written prescription information sheet to eventually replace the multiple written documents that patients can currently receive from their pharmacists with a particular prescription.

Under current practices, those documents can include  Medication Guides, Patient Package Inserts [PPIs] and Consumer Medication Information [CMI]. Too often, said NCPA’s director of public policy, Tony Lee, patients discard the CMI and never read it — sometimes even throwing it away before they leave the pharmacy.

“While we recognize that the FDA has worked hard to try and improve these medication documents, the problem needs to be addressed in a fundamentally different way that combines useful written information with the personal relationships between the pharmacists and patients,” Lee told the FDA advisory panel.

“It is time for a comprehensive solution to this written prescription information issue,” added John Coster, NCPA’s senior VP of government affairs. “Any FDA effort to make CMI more useful for the patient should be accompanied by a broader assessment of the usefulness and purpose of the other information leaflets that pharmacist may be required to provide. We look forward to working with the agency and patient groups to meet this goal.”

Last summer, NCPA joined other pharmacy provider groups to file a “One Document” citizens’ petition with the FDA. The Risk Advisory Committee was convened specifically to address how to make CMI leaflets more useful for the patient, the group noted.

“These leaflets are voluntarily provided by the pharmacist, but the information contained in these leaflets often duplicates information in other written leaflets,” NCPA stated.

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