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CVS Health quits U.S. Chamber of Commerce over tobacco stance

CVS Health quits U.S. Chamber of Commerce over tobacco stance | Healthcare and Technology news |

CVS Health Corp said it was withdrawing its membership from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce after media reports that the trade group was lobbying globally against anti-smoking laws.

The No. 2 U.S. drugstore chain said it was "surprised" to read recent reports on the chamber's position on tobacco products outside the United States.

The New York Times reported last week that the chamber and its foreign affiliates were lobbying against anti-smoking laws such as restrictions on smoking in public places and bans on menthol and slim cigarettes, mainly in developing countries. 

"CVS's purpose is to help people on their path to better health, and we fundamentally believe tobacco use is in direct conflict with this purpose," CVS spokesman David Palombi said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

The chamber, however, said that it did not support smoking and it called the report "a concerted misinformation campaign."

"... we support protecting the intellectual property and trademarks of all legal products in all industries and oppose singling out certain industries for discriminatory treatment," the trade group said in an email.

CVS was the first major U.S. drugstore chain to stop selling tobacco products last year.

No comment yet.!

Walgreens is aiming to be a hub for digital health tracking

Walgreens is aiming to be a hub for digital health tracking | Healthcare and Technology news |

Walgreens this week made several announcements highlighting their goal of becoming a digital health hub for patients through partnerships with WebMD and Qualcomm.

As a bit of background, Walgreen’s initially made their app available back in 2012. At that time, we highlighted the availability of medication reminder functionality as well as innovative ways to get refills. Since then, Walgreens, like many other pharmacies, has sought to rebrand and expand as more than just a pharmacy/convenience store with the addition of things like on-site healthcare clinics and a rewards program for healthy behaviors.

This week, Walgreens announced plans to integrate with Qualcomm’s 2Net platform to enable data captured by personal health devices to flow into its Balance Rewards program. Basically, Walgreens customers will get rewards for meeting targets for healthy behaviors around health tracking, exercise, and more.

In addition, Walgreens also announced a partnership with WebMD to provide customers with a Digital Health Advisor. According to Walgreens:

Participants can engage in interactive programs that help with smoking cessation, weight management, nutrition, exercise and emotional health. Walgreens Pharmacy Chat health experts are also available to provide live coaching and help encourage positive lifestyle choices and healthy behaviors. Your Digital Health Advisor participants will earn Walgreens Balance Rewards points for making progress in achieving their goals.

The suite of services being built around the Walgreens app is becoming increasingly impressive and could become a potent asset as clinicians seek new resources for managing increasingly complex patients. For example, one discussion I frequently have with my patients is around smoking cessation. I often refer them to free state resources that provide counseling and other forms of support. One benefit of the EMR is that I actually know where my patients’ fill their prescriptions. If it’s Walgreens, another resource I could suggest would be the digital health advisor and its program around smoking cessation. And if the promise of longer life, happier lungs, and less chance of heart attack isn’t enough, maybe the more tangible $10 coupon will be.

I’ll certainly be looking forward to seeing how these tools ultimately take shape to see whether I’d recommend them to my patients. But when it comes to driving healthy lifestyle changes, additional tools – particularly innovative, easy to use, and practical options like what Walgreens seems to be developing – are welcome.

Keith McGuinness's curator insight, January 9, 2015 4:01 PM

Walgreens is moving in the right direction, but the cornerstone of their digital strategy is CRM.  The cornerstone of their CRM strategy should be digital therapeutics, specifically, behavior change.  10,000 steps is great, but it is not a health outcome.!

As Walgreens Cuts Costs, Store Corners May Change

As Walgreens Cuts Costs, Store Corners May Change | Healthcare and Technology news |

With $1 billion in costs to cut as part of its merger with Alliance Boots, Walgreen Co. (WAG) is preparing for potential store design changes and new retail locations to reduce expenses and boost under-performing operations.

The largest drugstore chain in the U.S. earlier this week hinted at such potential changes during its first quarter fiscal 2015 earnings call with executives saying the past strategy to “have the best corner or location in any geography” didn’t always work. In some cases, Walgreens may just have to renegotiate leases while others may mean a smaller store or a different location or perhaps a closure.

“We are doing lots of things to manage down all aspects of that overall cost structure including taking a hard look at those stores,” said Tim McLevish, Walgreens executive vice president and chief financial officer told analysts.

“It covers the spectrum,” McLevish added. “In some locations, we would benefit by a smaller format store … (than the current) size and scale what we have.”

Walgreens, which has more retail pharmacies than rivals like CVS Health (CVS) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), operates 8,230 drugstores with a presence in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Thus, the opportunities to cut costs are large, analysts say.

Walgreens opened a new store in an old bank in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood in 2013.

Alex Gourlay, who was CEO of Alliance Boots’ health and beauty division before last year becoming president of customer experience and daily living and the president elect of Walgreen Co., said the company had “to make even better use of the asset by having the right offer in that locality for the customers who are actually based around that store.”

“These are all strategies that we are now deploying,” Gourlay told analysts on the earnings call.

Walgreens acquisition of the remaining 55% of Alliance Boots that Walgreen doesn’t already own is expected to close next week. Shareholders will vote on that purchase Monday in New York and, should they vote in favor of the deal, the transaction will close Dec. 31.  Then, the company will operate under a new holding company called Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. that will trade under a new ticker symbol “WBA” and be run by Italian billionaire Stefano Pessina, 73, who has led Alliance Boots, and becomes “acting CEO, pending” a search for a permanent replacement for Greg Wasson, 56, who is retiring.

No comment yet.!

Pharmacists to move into primary care under new agreement

Pharmacists to move into primary care under new agreement | Healthcare and Technology news |

After weeks of tense negotiations, the Government has reached an in-principle agreement with pharmacists on the sixth community pharmacy agreement, valued at $18.9 billion investment over the next five years.

Health Minister Sussan Ley said it should result in cheaper medicines for consumers, with the agreement to include the option for pharmacists to discount the patient copayment by $1.

"Patients have many scripts, sometimes many a month, and the discounted co-payment opportunity that pharmacists can provide in this agreement ... will actually really improve patients' affordability when it comes to medicines," she said.

"For the first time, I sat down with everyone across the supply chain for medicines ... the manufacturers, the wholesalers, the dispensers, the prescribers and most importantly the consumers," she said.

The Government estimates it will save between $5 and $6 billion across the pharmaceutical sector through these changes and the previously announced changes to the cost of generic medicines.

One of the biggest changes in this new agreement is opening up the primary care space to include pharmacists.

"There is a $1.2 billion investment for pharmacy programs and pharmacy moving into some items in primary care," she said.

"We want to make sure that we give them a key role in the primary care teams of the future. That's an exciting new structural reform for the future."

Pharmacy Guild of Australia executive director David Quilty welcomed the agreement.

"This agreement provides for greater oversight by pharmacists to ensure that people can manage their medicines effectively," Mr Quilty said.

"We strongly support pharmacists working more closely with GPs and ensuring people get the highest standard of care."

But Australian Medical Association vice president Dr Stephen Parnis questioned the Government's decision to dramatically increase funding to the pharmacy sector, while doctors and patients are subject to a Medicare patient rebate freeze until 2018.

"Pharmacists are a very important part of the multi-disciplinary aspects of medical care, but they are not doctors. And they shouldn't try to be," he said.

"If you want medical care, you want to see someone who has medical training, who takes the responsibility for it, who has the indemnity for it.

"Pharmacists don't have these roles, and there is no evidence base that this will be of benefit, that this will be value for money or that it will support the care that patients get.

"So we are very concerned about that."

Pharmacists already offer services such as blood pressure tests and medication reviews, but this could dramatically increase the type of medical services they could offer.

Ms Ley was clear that any move into services offered by doctors would be done gradually.

"There's an opportunity for pharmacists to step into the primary care space, but we are doing this carefully and in an evidence-based way," she said.

"We know that over time the investment that we will make in this area will entrench pharmacists as key members of our primary care teams."

All pharmacy programs, new and existing, will be reviewed and approved by the Independent Medical Services Advisory Committee.

The Government has agreed to give pharmacists a new handling and administration fee, for dispensing advice.

But Dr Parnis said public hospitals are most in need of extra funding.

"The Government has its health priorities all wrong," he said.

Location rules governing where pharmacies can open remain in place, but will be reviewed in two years' time.

The new agreement is due to start on July 1.

No comment yet.!

Walgreens Closes Deal, Begins New Era In Global Pharmacy

Walgreens Closes Deal, Begins New Era In Global Pharmacy | Healthcare and Technology news |

Walgreens (WAG) closed its deal with Alliance Boots this morning, launching under a new holding company with its eyes on global expansion, a first for the retail pharmacy industry.

As part of the deal, the new Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. (WBA) begins today trading on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “WBA.” Earlier this week, Walgreens shareholders approved acquiring the remaining 55 percent of European drugstore chain Alliance Boots that the U.S. pharmacy doesn’t already own. It completes a process  that began in 2012.

Walgreens, which began with its first corner drugstore in Chicago in 1901, now has a “retail pharmacy network spanning the United States and Europe as well as key markets in Latin America and Asia.”

Combined, Walgreens Boots Alliance has more than 12,800 stores in more than 25 countries with more than 370,000 employees. Walgreens has been the largest U.S. pharmacy chain, ahead of CVS Health (CVS). The companies also distribute products from more than 340 pharmaceutical distribution centers that the companies said serve more than 180,000 pharmacies and other health care entities.

“Becoming global gives us the ability to generate significant and sustainable benefits for local markets and all stakeholders, from consumers and patients, to pharmacists, suppliers, business partners and, of course, our employees,” said Stefano Pessina, 73, who become acting CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance following the retirement of Walgreen Co. CEO Greg Wasson, 56.

A search for Wasson’s successor is expected to begin soon now that the deal has closed.

The outgoing Wasson said the deal combines “two iconic brands” with “complementary geographic footprints” and companies that have provided health care and community pharmacy services “each dating back more than 100 years.”

Timmy C's curator insight, January 17, 2015 1:35 AM

The pharmacy market is growing and one of the biggest pharmacy company is expanding. Walgreen's pharmacy has decided to break off and create their own individual company, this means that the future of the pharmacy business will have more competition as well as continue expanding. Which is good for individuals trying to find jobs in that industry