PHARMACY

Walgreens extends online pharmacy with Pharmacy Chat

BY Allison Cerra

DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens patients that are seeking accessibility to the drug store chain’s pharmacy now can chat live with a pharmacist 24/7.

Walgreens Pharmacy Chat provides a live, one-on-one online chat between patients and a pharmacy staff member regarding such inquiries as prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, pricing inquiries, prescription status and more. The Walgreens Pharmacy Chat is an extension of the chain’s online pharmacy tool.

“Pharmacists are among the most trusted healthcare professionals, and Pharmacy Chat gives our patients and customers another way to reach out to Walgreens pharmacy when it’s most convenient for them,” said Kermit Crawford, Walgreens EVP pharmacy. “Our pharmacy staff  is always here to help, and we continue to introduce innovative technologies that bring our pharmacy services to our patients wherever they are, whenever they need us.”

In related news, Rite Aid also introduced its own 24/7 online chat for members of its Wellness+ customer rewards program.

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Cardinal sees modest revenue gains in FY 2010

BY Jim Frederick

DUBLIN, Ohio Drug distribution and health services titan Cardinal Health on Thursday reported a modest gain in sales but slackened earnings as the company grappled with a low-inflation economy and shifts in its own business model.

For the full year, Cardinal’s sales rose 3% to $98.5 billion, but revenues in the fourth-quarter were up a more modest 0.5% versus the same period last year, to $24.5 billion. The company’s huge pharmaceutical distribution business accounted for the bulk of sales, rising 2% in fiscal 2010 to $89.8 billion but just 0.2% in the final quarter versus the same period last year, to $22.3 billion.

“I am extremely proud of the progress we made in fiscal year 2010 and the actions we took to shift our growth trajectory and position us for the coming years,” said George Barrett, Cardinal chairman and CEO.

Nevertheless, much of the momentum came from the company’s Medical segment, which grew profits by 11% for the year “while continuing to make key strategic investments,” said the chairman. By contrast, Cardinal’s massive Pharmaceutical division, beset by the lack of pricing inflation on some branded drugs, “fewer significant generic launches,” supply shortages in nuclear pharmacy and other factors, saw a 3% pullback in earnings for the year and a 17% profit decline in the fourth quarter.

Barrett acknowledged the slump in the company’s wholesale pharmaceutical segment. However, he cast the downturn in a positive light, noting that the drug distribution operation “performed considerably better than we anticipated for the full year.”

Barrett credited “execution on major initiatives, disciplined cost controls and some unplanned generic launches” for that performance. “These items largely offset the dampening effect of the actions we took to improve our strategic positioning, the negative impact from the year-over-year comparison of generic launches and the severe supply shortages in nuclear pharmacy,” he added.

“We made great strides in fiscal 2010 with key strategic priorities including our generic sales and sourcing initiatives, working capital optimization and customer-facing information technology improvements – all of which are starting to have a positive impact on the bottom line,” Barrett said. “With the recent renewals of key customers, we have stabilized our base for the next several years. In addition, our recent acquisition of Healthcare Solutions Holding will help accelerate our strategy for specialty pharmaceuticals and contribute to long-term growth for the segment.”

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Lilly to host 12th annual Victory Over Diabetes event

BY Alaric DeArment

ATLANTA An event taking place this week aims to educate African-Americans about diabetes management.

The American Diabetes Association and drug maker Eli Lilly will put on the 12th annual Victory Over Diabetes event in Atlanta Saturday. The event will feature R&B singer Angie Stone, spokeswoman for Lilly’s Fearless African-Americans Connected and Empowered program, free screenings and culturally relevant resources for African-Americans with diabetes. Diabetes is estimated to affect 10% of adults in Georgia, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health.

“I know from experience that living with Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong journey,” Stone said . “Today, I am successfully managing my diabetes through a series of positive lifestyle changes.”

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