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Wegmans hangs specialty pharmacy shingle

BY Michael Johnsen

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Beginning in August, Wegmans Food Markets is now offering an enhanced Specialty Pharmacy Service for medications used to treat conditions in the fields of rheumatology, gastroenterology, neurology and dermatology, the chain announced Thursday. 
 
“Specialty medications are a demanding, but growing area of pharmacy,” stated Jack Coultry, Wegmans manager of managed care. “Health outcomes can be improved through close contact with the prescribing physician and additional counseling by the pharmacist. Adding this enhanced care model for those customers who need it is a natural next step for us.”
 
James DiNicolantonio, who joined Wegmans in 2009, has been named the company’s first specialty pharmacist. He has received advanced training to meet the needs of this patient group, and this is his area of focus.
 
“I’ll talk regularly with these customers by phone,” DiNicolantonio said. “We’ll discuss any problems they’re having, like self-injecting or dealing with side effects. When necessary, I’ll consult with their physician. I’ll also talk to customers about programs that may lower out-of-pocket costs. We’re well equipped to deal with all of these concerns.”
 
DiNicolantonio pointed out another important advantage, beyond convenience, for Wegmans customers who are now filling these prescriptions at a specialty pharmacy. “We have a history of all prescription medications that a customer has filled with us. That puts our pharmacists in an excellent position to alert the customer to any red flags such as potential drug interactions.”
 
Wegmans also offers free home shipping for these and all prescription refills.
 
Fifteen medications are currently covered under Wegmans Specialty Pharmacy Service. Brand names include Avonex, Enbrel, Humira, Stelara, Cimzia, Rebif, Betaseron, Extavia, Kineret, Xeljanz, Forteo, Copaxone, Gilenya, Simponi and Orencia.
 
“From the viewpoint of customer service and patient care, we want to be the gold standard,” Coultry said. “We want all of our customers, including those who are taking a specialty medication, to maximize whatever potential their medication may hold to improve their health and well being.”
 
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Walmart reports ‘challenges’ in Q2

BY Mike Troy

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart met low second-quarter sales and profit expectations it set for itself, but significantly lowered its full year outlook due to a tepid third-quarter sales forecast and increased e-commerce and healthcare costs.

Total company sales increased 2.8% to $119.3 billion while same-store sales at U.S. stores and Sam’s Clubs were flat during the period ended July 31. The total sales figure included a $696 negative impact related to foreign currency translation, without which sales would have increased 3.4% to $120 billion. Net income increased 0.6% to $4.09 billion from $4.07 billion, but earnings per share declined to $1.21 from $1.23. Walmart had forecast earnings in a range of $1.15 to $1.25 and analysts’ consensus estimate was $1.21.

Despite the decline from the prior year, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., president and CEO Doug McMillon said he was pleased with the earnings per share performance.

“As it relates to the positives from the quarter, I’m encouraged by the performance of our International business, our Neighborhood Market sales in the U.S. and by our e-commerce growth,” McMillon said. “As it relates to our challenges in the quarter, we wanted to see stronger comps in Walmart U.S. and Sam's Club, but both reported flat comp sales. Stronger sales in the U.S. businesses would've also helped our profit performance."

The flat U.S. comp performance followed a 0.3% decline the prior year, as an increase in transaction size offset a decline in traffic. Total sales for Walmart’s largest division increased 2.7% to $70.6 billion due to the addition of new selling space. However, operating profits fell 2.4% to $5.25 billion.

“We delivered net sales growth of $1.9 billion in the second quarter,” said Greg Foran, Walmart U.S. president and CEO. “Our e-commerce business, including store-fulfilled sales, delivered double-digit sales growth,” added the former Walmart International executive who replaced Bill Simon as head of the U.S. division last week.

Same store sales at U.S. stores are forecast to be flat in the third quarter following a 0.3% decline last year.

Sam’s delivered top-line growth due the addition of new clubs, but same-store sales were flat. Total sales increased 1.7% to $13 billion, excluding fuel. Operating profits fell 4.6% to $494 million.

“Our top priority at Sam’s Club remains growth – growing our member base and growing sales,” said Rosalind Brewer, Sam’s Club president and CEO. “We’re taking steps to increase the value of membership through investments in Plus member cash rewards and the cash back Mastercard. It’s still early, but member response has been positive.”

Sam’s is expecting third-quarter comps to be slightly positive.

The relative bright spot in Walmart’s second quarter was the international division where sales on a constant currency basis increased 5.3% to $34.6 billion and operating profits grew 8% to nearly $1.5 billion.

“We remain focused on price investment across all our markets and expect to continue driving improved comp performance,” said David Cheesewright, Walmart International president and CEO. “I am pleased with the trends in many of our markets, which were driven by a continued focus on being the lowest cost operator.”

Faced with ongoing difficulties to drive top line growth at its two U.S. divisions coupled with expense pressures, Walmart said it expects third-quarter earnings per share of $1.10 to $1.20 and lowered its full year forecast to a range of $4.90 to $5.15 from an earlier forecast of $5.10 to $5.45.

"Our guidance includes incremental investments in e-commerce and headwinds from higher healthcare costs in the U.S. than previously estimated,” said CFO Charles Holley.

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Healthcare is Apple’s next target for disruptive innovation

BY Michael Johnsen

First with its iPod, and then with its iPhone and iPad, Apple has successfully introduced the kind of disruptive innovation that has helped redefine whole industries. Today, Apple continues to help shape the way Americans consume media and communicate with one another. Tomorrow, Apple may help shape how Americans engage health care. According to a Reuters report published last week, Apple is in talks with health providers including Mount Sinai, the Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins around its HealthKit service. 
 
Apple's HealthKit will be used as a health data aggregator — including blood pressure, blood sugar, pulse and weight — that healthcare professionals and caregivers can use to help track a patient's health. In so doing, Apple will become one of the conduits to optimized, patient-empowered healthcare where outcomes based management isn't just a goal, it's a comprehensive, turnkey solution. 
 
Of course, Apple isn't alone. Just about every other major player in telecommunications is staking out a claim on what tomorrow's telehealth will look like, including Verizon's Virtual Visits and Google's Helpouts. Comcast, Time Warner and Cox also are exploring telehealth as a potential lucrative revenue stream. And with good reason, telehealth services are expected to generate $4.5 billion by 2018, according to research firm IHS, with an approximate 7 million patients plugged in, up from less than 350,000 in 2013. 
 
Imagine the possibilities. Devices already exist that can successfully capture health data and wirelessly upload that data to the cloud. With the appropriate patient permissions in place, the next step will be to mine that data for exception reports and place those reports into the hands of retail pharmacists, who in turn can do what pharmacists do best — council patients on their medication protocol and disease state management. 
 
It's a proactive health model that can identify at-risk patients and intercept those patients in an effort to improve outcomes. And it's a model that fully places America's most approachable healthcare professional — the pharmacist — right smack in the middle of some positive disruptive innovation of their own. 
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