HEALTH

N.Y. drug stores, organizations band together to fight off swine flu

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK The swine flu story first broke Friday, April 24, and quickly grew in prominence on the evening news with each chilling update from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. On April 24, it was 20 cases in three states. By Friday, May 1, there were 141 cases across 19 states and counting.

 

The concerns are growing and real. The Food Marketing Institute announced the cancellation of an industry gathering in Dallas next week and a great number of schools have been closed across the country — even where there were no confirmed cases of swine flu — all out of those concerns.

 

 

The federal government quickly declared a state of emergency, and as part of that, the CDC began distributing some 11 million doses of Tamiflu to all 50 states from its Strategic National Stockpile. For all the good that does, because the common American doesn’t have access to the national stockpile of anything. At least not at this preliminary stage. But they do have access to their neighborhood drug store.

 

 

To date, the greatest cluster of swine flu exists in New York City, and each of the prominent drug store retailers in that city — CVS, Duane Reade, Rite Aid and Walgreens — reported an increase in demand for antivirals like Tamiflu and Relenza, hand sanitizers and facemasks. That demand included a nine-fold increase for antivirals nationwide on Monday, April 27 as compared to the 26 days prior, according to an initial analysis by SDI. Which is telling, because what it means is that in a time of crisis when consumers are looking for immediate solutions, they turn to their neighborhood pharmacists for both products and information — one supermarket pharmacist in upstate New York reported she was fielding between 10 and 15 questions per day around swine flu. That’s one shift, and that was early in the week.

 

 

And nurse practitioners are also more and more becoming a healthcare resource for consumers — the Convenient Care Association representing more than 1,200 member clinics in 30 states announced that its members are prepared to help consumers with any swine flu concerns — be it questions or a preliminary diagnosis.

 

 

All of this boils down to one simple truth — pharmacy, with its breadth and depth of healthcare products and services — is the de facto front line of healthcare delivery. Concerned consumers only need walk into their local pharmacy to get all that they require — a prescription from their doctor or nurse practitioner filled, hand sanitizers and facemasks for disease prevention or sound advice from a knowledgeable and practiced healthcare professional.

 

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Drugstore.com delivers in three focus areas, CEO says

BY Michael Johnsen

BELLEVUE, Wash. So far, so good. Drugstore.com on Thursday announced that it is delivering on three areas of focus in what has become an exceedingly challenging retail environment.

“I’m very pleased to announce that we’ve made substantial progresses in all [three] of these areas in the first quarter, posting one of our strongest quarters to date, despite facing a very tough economy,” Dawn Lepore, Drugstore.com CEO and chairman, told analysts Wednesday evening.

The three focal points for Drugstore.com included a focus on growing its over-the-counter and vision businesses at a faster rate than overall e-commerce; a focus on driving bottom-line improvements and a focus on incremental growth for the year.

So the scorecard so far —OTC revenue grew over 11%, well ahead of recent e-commerce industry trends, and the beauty business grew at an even faster pace, increasing 14%, despite a decline in the beauty industry.

Gross margins were at 28.2%, delivering adjusted EBITDA of $5.6 million to the bottom line, which is more than double the adjusted EBITDA the previous-year period.

“I believe our record performance in the first quarter offers evidence that we can continue to grow in a difficult economic environment, while also improving the strategic positioning of the company,” Lepore said, suggesting that the online retailer will be able to maintain its improved performance through the remainder of the year.

Looking forward, Drugstore.com plans to launch its Medco Health Solutions-branded OTC web site in the second quarter, with a notable ramp in the second half of the year. “We believe our partnership is on track and we are in active conversations with other potential partners,” Lepore said.

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American Forces Press Service confirms swine flu case in Calif.

BY Michael Johnsen

ARLINGTON, Va. The American Forces Press Service on Wednesday confirmed a swine flu case at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

A male Marine reported to a medical clinic on base over the weekend complaining of flu-like symptoms, the report read. Initial test results indicate the H1N1 virus, and the service is waiting for further results from testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Marine Corps Gen. James Conway said. The Marine and his roommate have both been quarantined.

“Our base commanders are all very much attentive to what’s taking place,” Conway said during a press briefing Wednesday. “The battalion surgeon, a very aggressive, young Navy lieutenant, has identified 37 other Marines that he has come in contact with, over the weekend, before he came in. Those people have also been, at this point, set aside. And they’re being watched and tested and given the Tamiflu, to prevent any further exposure to the disease, on their part.”

The 37 are not officially quarantined, but are not allowed in public places such as unit formations and dining facilities.

The southern-California base is about 200 miles from the Mexican border, but the Marine had not visited Mexico, Conway said.

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