HEALTH

Q&A: A dose of generic Meda-cine

BY Alaric DeArment

Many generic drug companies have long marketed branded drugs on the side, but lately, some branded drug companies have sought to enter the generics business as well. One of those companies is Meda Pharmaceuticals, the U.S. subsidiary of Swedish drug maker Meda AB. Drug Store News recently interviewed John White, Meda’s senior director of marketing.

Drug Store News: What gave Meda the idea of pursuing generics?

John White: Generic medications account for roughly 3-in-4 prescriptions dispensed across the United States. Meda has made the strategic decision to serve this large and growing segment of the market by forming Wallace Pharmaceuticals, a wholly owned subsidiary of Meda Pharmaceuticals. The strategy demonstrates Meda’s efforts to diversify, align and better serve the needs and interests of our customers. We believe our ability to provide consistency in therapeutic effect, manufacturing and supply to our parent company’s branded products will prove to be a competitive advantage for Wallace Pharmaceuticals.

DSN: Considering that the available pool of blockbuster drugs coming off patent is getting smaller, how does Meda plan to use generics to drive growth for the company overall?

White: There is a significant opportunity for continued growth of generic prescription products in healthcare reform, and Wallace is well-positioned to become a preferred supplier of high-quality, high-value generic medicines. Wallace Pharmaceuticals creates an additional platform for Meda’s portfolio growth across therapeutic categories in which we will seek to introduce products where current and future market needs exist.

DSN: On what therapeutic areas do you plan to focus?

White: Wallace is launching with a core portfolio of Meda’s well-known allergy and pain medicines, and will be announcing additional product introductions in the upcoming months.

DSN: In what markets do you plan to concentrate business?

White: Efforts to launch Wallace Pharmaceuticals will be focused in the United States.

DSN: What about biosimilars?

White: We have no plans at this time.

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GNC to sell branded retail, food-service equipment

BY Allison Cerra

LOS ANGELES General Nutrition Centers has inked a deal to sell its retail and food-service equipment with the help of IMG Licensing and The Legacy Cos.

IMG’s licensing agreement for GNC with The Legacy Cos. will give way to the creation of GNC-branded products, such as blenders and juicers, which will be distributed in the company’s stores. The products will retail from $150 to $400, IMG said.

The agreement will run through 2015.

“GNC has set the standard as an industry leader in the nutritional supplement business and is truly dedicated to helping its customers improve health and quality of life. Teaming up with The Legacy Cos. to expand its brand and create this new and exciting product line will continue to solidify GNC’s brand and its commitment to providing exceptional products and services to consumers,” said Tim Rothwell, IMG EVP and co-managing director of worldwide licensing.

Added GNC EVP Tom Dowd, “GNC is very excited to partner with a high-quality manufacturer that can produce a variety of products that complement the healthy lifestyle of our customers.”

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Drug stores’ success relies on customer service

BY Jim Frederick

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT In the never-ending battle for customer loyalty, independents rule and service is still king.

(THE NEWS: J.D. Power and Associates’ pharmacy study addresses cost, customer service. For the full story, click here)

The latest national customer satisfaction survey from J.D. Power and Associates showed that personalized, above-and-beyond service still outweighs price for a majority of consumers — even in a dour economy beset by economic uncertainty and joblessness. A majority of the more than 12,300 pharmacy customers polled by the big research firm in May and June of this year gave their highest satisfaction scores to pharmacists that took more time to answer their questions, help them find over-the-counter medicines and, perhaps, even remembered their names and family situations.

This, despite the growing cost sensitivity among Americans about the prices of their medicines and the out-of-pocket expenses they incurred at the pharmacy counter. As Jim Dougherty, J.D. Power’s director of the healthcare practice, put it in a conference call to discuss the survey results, “Pharmacies that are focused on service garner the highest levels of satisfaction … even in an environment where cost has become increasingly important.”

That’s good news for small-scale, owner-operated independent pharmacies. It’s also good news for the Big Three drug wholesale giants that operate the major networks of independents, franchised and otherwise, that scored the top results.

Again this year, survey respondents ranked independents tops in overall satisfaction. Customers gave their highest scores to Good Neighbor Pharmacy, the huge network of some 3,700 independents that operate under the buying, merchandising and store-support umbrella provided by distribution and health services giant AmerisourceBergen. The two largest groups of independent-owned franchises, McKesson’s Health Mart and Cardinal Health’s Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, ranked second and third, respectively, in the poll.

Among mass merchants, Target’s pharmacy operation got highest satisfcation marks for the fourth year in a row, while Publix rated tops among supermarket pharmacies.

Efforts to give the best possible service pay off, both in additional revenues and in measurable customer loyalty. Highly satisfied customers can bring in an additional $227 each year in prescription business, researchers found. What’s more, J.D. Power reported, “brick-and-mortar pharmacy customers who are highly satisfied … are more than three times more likely to say they ‘definitely will’ return to their pharmacy and 10 times more likely to say they ‘definitely will’ recommend their pharmacy to others, compared to customers with low satisfaction levels.”

That’s a lot of free word-of-mouth advertising.

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