PHARMACY

Walgreens staking a multichannel approach

BY Jim Frederick

CHICAGO — With the explosion in such mobile devices as smart phones, Walgreens is expanding its access across an ever-wider array of options for health consumers, president and CEO Greg Wasson told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting Wednesday.

“We’ve made tremendous progress,” Wasson said, on the company’s mission “to become the leading multichannel retailer, which will also help get us closer to the consumer. Our goal is threefold,” he added. “We want to give them what they want, which may be a broader selection of products offered on our website than what we carry in our drug stores; where they want it, which may be delivered to their home or to pick up in our drug stores, and when they want it.

“For those who are shopping online and want to pick up at their Walgreens, it could be one hour with our new QuickShop pilot,” Wasson pointed out. “And for the emerging mobile shoppers, our new smart phone app makes it even more convenient.”

Driving the effort to broaden access points with consumers are studies that show “that multichannel shoppers are three times more valuable to a retailer than a single-channel shopper," Wasson said. "That’s why we’re driving this initiative so hard.”

In sum, chairman Alan McNally told shareholders, “with the accelerating growth of mobile technologies and social networking in our society, our company’s exceptional progress in advancing our e-commerce business during the last two years and our network of stores so conveniently located in communities across America, Walgreens has an enormous opportunity to become the nation’s leading multichannel retailer, where cyberspace meets the physical world in communities across America.”

On the health front, McNally added, “Our in-store and worksite health clinics, our expanding network of home infusion services, our growing support to patients with diabetes and other complex chronic illnesses, more than 7 million H1N1 and seasonal flu shots and other vaccinations and immunizations last year, these are all examples of Walgreens’ expanding role as a community-based pharmacy health-and-wellness healthcare provider … [with] convenient, local access to quality, affordable services for patients and unique and valuable solutions for employers, health plans and other payers.”

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PHARMACY

NCPA sends letter to House committee chairman on ways to help pharmacy, patients

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The independent pharmacy lobby has issued a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., with insight on how certain current or proposed federal regulations can burden pharmacies and their patients.

The National Community Pharmacists Association offered Issa — who requested input on which pieces of legislation can negatively impact the nation and how they can be improved — input on four pieces of legislation: competitive bidding for diabetes testing supplies, IRS 1099 reporting requirements, reduced access to over-the-counter medicines through flexible spending accounts and limited access to the 340B drug discount program. NCPA EVP and CEO Kathleen Jaeger said that while some federal regulations are "well-intentioned, [they] undermine patient access to cost-saving services and disadvantage the small businesses that provide this care."

The specific problems and remedies the NCPA noted included:

  • That future requirement for all diabetes testing supplies and other products to be competitively bid or subject to a similar pricing scheme will cause disruption in services, according to the NCPA, and that a permanent community pharmacy exemption should be enacted, as well as authorization to continue providing home delivery to special needs patients;

  • Support of repealing the new IRS 1099 reporting requirements on businesses that purchase goods and services from corporations for $600 or more, because of the significant additional paperwork of filing an average of 100 to 200 new Form 1099s per pharmacy. That mandate, the NCPA declared, would limit the amount of time pharmacists can spend with patients;

  • NCPA support of policies that encourage the appropriate use of OTC medications and concern with the regulations prohibiting consumers from using their pre-tax FSAs to pay for OTC medicines unless the patient has a prescription. Such restrictions discourage the use of low-cost means to treat health conditions, the group said; and

  • NCPA support of reforms to the 340B program to ensure medications, which are required to be sold at a significant discount by the manufacturer to federally funded clinics and certain disproportionate share hospitals, that are used for the intended populations: uninsured and underinsured Americans. Currently, the NCPA said, the patient eligibility criteria are ill-defined and reportedly have allowed providers to offer well-insured patients co-pay discounts that may lure them away from community pharmacies, while diverting limited federal funding from the neediest of patients.  "We seek a more practical definition to include only patients who do not have prescription drug insurance," the NCPA wrote.

 

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Watson’s revenue grows 25%

BY Alaric DeArment

SAN FRANCISCO — Though it plans to announce its fiscal year 2010 results next month, Watson Pharmaceuticals offered a peak at some preliminary numbers at the 29th annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference Wednesday.

Watson said that based on a review of results for last year, it expects to have earned revenues of more than $3.5 billion, a 25% increase over 2009.

“[Year] 2010 was another year of exceptional performance,” Watson CEO Paul Bisaro said. “We experienced continued solid growth across the business, with particularly strong contributions from our generic extended-release and oral contraceptive franchises in the United States, as well as from our Anda distribution business.”

The company plans to release fourth-quarter and full-year 2010 results on Feb. 15.

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