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Rx veteran’s career a ‘Tripp’ down retailer’s memory lane

BY Jim Frederick

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —One of retail pharmacy’s best-known managers and innovators is set to exit the stage on which he’s forged a successful career.

The pending retirement of Kevin Tripp as EVP and president of Supervalu’s Retail Midwest region marks a big changing of the guard for one of chain pharmacy’s biggest players. Still unclear is whether it also signals an exit from the retail pharmacy industry of this respected executive, who at 55 is still young enough to strike out in another direction.

Tripp, a veteran pharmacy leader with more than three decades in pharmacy and operations management at Albertsons and American Stores, has had a major impact on Supervalu’s sprawling pharmacy business, driving the company to adopt and expand new patient care models and forge closer ties with health plan payers, health advocacy groups and patients themselves.

Also retiring is Supervalu president and COO Mike Jackson. Following the planned departure of both executives Aug. 14, the giant food and drug retailer said it will “realign its leadership structure to become more customer-focused,” with CEO Craig Herkert taking on the additional role of president and Pete Van Helden, who currently oversees the company’s western region, rising to EVP retail operations in charge of all three retail regions, which will be combined.

Supervalu also will create a new health-and-wellness division. The goal, according to the company: “to facilitate stronger alignment between Supervalu’s pharmacy operations and its health and beauty offering, creating a total health-and-wellness experience for customers.” Heading that division will be Duncan Mac Naughton, EVP merchandising and marketing.

“Mike and Kevin have made significant contributions to Supervalu’s growth over the past several years, and have been instrumental in laying the groundwork for our company’s ongoing success,” Herkert said.

For his part, Tripp cited “the great pleasure of working with this company [and its predecessors] for 31 years, in many different challenging and rewarding leadership positions.

“Above all I have enjoyed working beside so many talented and capable colleagues,” he added.

Tripp’s career traces the arc of pharmacy retailing through the merger and acquisition frenzy of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. He forged his early career in the sprawling, broadly merchandised arena of western-style drug and supermarket retailing practiced by innovators like American Stores founder L.S. “Sam” Skaggs, rising to EVP and general manager of American Drug Stores prior to its merger with Albertsons in 1999. He came to Supervalu through its purchase of much of the Albertsons retail empire in 2007.

As such, Tripp has been the ultimate decision-maker for Supervalu’s pharmacy operations. Among his reports is Chris Dimos, president of the pharmacy division; together, the two leaders have significantly broadened the clinical and patient-education services offered by Supervalu pharmacists, and championed new reimbursement models for those services from the health plan sponsors footing the bills for patients.

At Albertsons, Tripp actively promoted certification for diabetic management among the chain’s more than 5,600 pharmacists and more than 2,000 certified pharmacy technicians, overseeing a program that qualified many pharmacists as certified diabetic educators and one of retail pharmacy’s most extensive disease management and diabetic care service offerings.

That commitment continued at Supervalu. Under Tripp’s direction, Supervalu expanded deeply into clinical care services and added new incentives to lure customers to the company’s more than 920 supermarket-based and stand-alone pharmacies. On a periodic basis, those pharmacies offer health screenings for diabetes, heart health, thyroid conditions and other diseases, and education by pharmacists in its stores to help patients prevent or live with a variety of conditions from diabetes to headaches.

In a bid to increase compensation by health plan payers for pharmacist-delivered patient-care services, Tripp and Dimos also oversaw the launch of Vitality Check, a health assessment program for health plan members and other patients delivered by company pharmacists for a fee.

Supervalu’s clinical care and patient education efforts have gained the company plaudits from health advocates. One example: an Award of Meritorious Achievement, presented in April from the American Heart Association for raising awareness of heart disease and its causes.

Under Tripp, Supervalu’s pharmacy team also wrestled constantly with new ways to merge the in-store pharmacies in its sprawling network of supermarket holdings—which include Jewel-Osco, Albertsons, Supervalu, Cub Foods, Lucky, Acme, Shaw’s and Shop ’n Save, among other chains across the United States—with the offerings in its food aisles. A prime example: the company’s Eating Healthy with Diabetes program, under which the pharmacy, patient education and healthcare services offered by the pharmacies are tied to a broader, holistic approach to wellness and disease prevention.

“The way we go to market is [that] we want our customers—regardless of which of our banners they’re having their prescriptions filled in—to have a common experience. And how we engage them with some of our newer programs or clinical programs may shift depending on the banner,” Tripp explained in one interview with Drug Store News.

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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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