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Kroger may prescribe pharmacy for its c-stores

BY DSN STAFF

WICHITA, Kan. —One of The Kroger Co.’s convenience-store divisions is eyeing the possible addition of pharmacies in some locations.

The management of Kwik Shop, one of five convenience store chains now owned by the supermarket and pharmacy giant, reportedly is considering a venture into small-scale pharmacies in some of its stores. The chain operates 126 combination convenience stores and gas stations in Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska.

At press time, Kroger was referring all inquiries directly to Kwik Shop president Jeff Parker, who couldn’t be reached immediately for comment. But The Wichita Eagle reported in late July that Parker had expressed interest in the idea after looking at Kroger’s one convenience-store pharmacy in operation under the company’s Tom Thumb banner in Florida.

“I think that sounds interesting,” Parker told the newspaper. However, he added, “We have looked at a lot of things like that.”

Parker added that the chain has no “definitive schedule” for adding pharmacies to the stores, according to The Eagle.

Nevertheless, the notion of adding pharmacies may not be such a big stretch for the chain, which noted on its Web site, “We like to explore new ideas. In fact, many ideas come from our customers.”

With a retail footprint averaging more than 2,500 sq. ft., Kwik Shop stores have enough interior space to accommodate small prescription centers. And if the chain does move into convenience-oriented pharmacy retailing, its management will have plenty of expertise to draw from; its parent company is the nation’s sixth-largest pharmacy operator, as well as the second-largest grocery retailer behind Walmart, with nearly 2,000 in-store prescription centers, coast-to-coast market penetration and an estimated $7 billion in pharmacy revenues. What’s more, Kwik Shop stores already carry more than 100 Kroger brand items.

As of May 2009, Kroger operated 764 c-stores under five different banners in 16 states, including the 126 Kwik Shop locations.

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Washington, Mo., considers repealing recently passed PSE legislation

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK The objective here is closing down clandestine methamphetamine labs. The question is: Who is going to bear the cost? And the answer, ultimately, is the consumer.

It seems that one of the primary reasons behind legislation like this, which is also under consideration by the California state legislature as well as several local municipalities throughout Missouri, is cost shifting.

Indeed, one solution that would prevent the practice of “smurfing,” a practice whereby meth addicts exceed their legal purchase limits in pseudoephedrine products by buying across several nearby pharmacies, is electronic logbooking. By granting access to PSE logbooks to law enforcement in real time, law enforcement officers would not only be made aware of a “smurfer” as they were driving between pharmacies, but would also identify who that smurfer was and where they lived.

Setting up that comprehensive electronic logbooking system requires resources, however. State coffers have traditionally been tapped for that purpose, and at least in the case of California, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association has offered to help defray that cost. In the case of Missouri, more than $500,000 has already been earmarked for the implementation of an electronic logbooking system at the state level.

However,  a not-as-much-talked-about cost is also borne by law enforcement, as pointed out by Franklin County Sgt. Jason Grellner in Missouri. After all, it requires additional resources to actually apprehend and prosecute those criminals, he suggested. And a system that better defines who those criminals may be, by his estimation, could cost the state as much as $350,000 per criminal per year.

Therefore, Grellner argues, it’s a fiscal responsibility to take PSE off the OTC market altogether, and require a prescription for the popular decongestant.

That, in a nutshell, is cost-shifting. Because reverse switching PSE translates into less revenue for retailers (and consequently less taxable revenue, as well) for those consumers who choose to forego PSE-provided relief, and for those who don’t, it’s a greater healthcare cost because now consumers have to schedule an appointment with their primary care practitioner and pay the co-pay for that doctor’s visit on top of the cost of the PSE product.

Regardless of how the consumer ultimately pays for the elimination of meth labs — whether through increased taxes to cover escalating law enforcement budgets or through increased personal healthcare costs — there is another argument to be made here. Switching PSE to prescription-only status may result in fewer meth labs busted, but it’s not going to do anything about those meth addicts still on the street. Necessity is the mother of invention, and for addicts, that simply means sourcing their meth from somewhere else.

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