Retail pharmacy unexpectedly enters the clinical research arenaBy Nigel F. Maynard
I believe in capitalism. I believe in the fair and equitable exchange of goods and services at a fair price–and to as many customers as possible. I believe that you believe it, too.
So imagine my surprise when I learned that most clinical drug and consumer products trials leave out vast swaths of the population. “Participants in clinical trials should represent the patients that will use the medical products,” the Food and Drug Administration said. “This is often not the case—people from racial and ethnic minorities and other diverse groups are underrepresented in clinical research. This is a concern because people of different ages, races, and ethnicities may react differently to certain medical products.”
Retail pharmacy has entered the chat. Recently, Walmart, Walgreens and CVS Health announced plans to help drug companies and research firms identify and recruit individuals to fill their clinical trials. Such trials were traditionally conducted through academiaresearch clinics, but they’re not representative of the full customer pool, have challenges with recruitment and locations often are far from patients’ homes.
Retail pharmacy’s foray into clinical trial services could be a good thing. There is an increased need by pharmaceutical companies to develop and bring new drugs and vaccines to market, plus retailers have access to a more diverse pool of participants. But there are limitations.
“Retail locations are probably not suitable for all types of clinical trials,” wrote Dawn Anderson, managing director, Deloitte Consulting. “A trial for a new drug to treat lung cancer or a rare disease would need to take place in a medical center. But a trial for a skin-cancer treatment or a drug to treat diabetes, asthma or hypertension might work well at a retail location. This strategy could help expand the locations where trials can take place, which could improve access for patients without negatively impacting traditional trial locations. It could help broaden the reach of clinical trials and make them more patient-centric.”
From a strictly business perspective, this makes total sense. Making sure that prescription medication, personal care products and OTC medications are safe for all populations and a wider range of consumers also means higher sales.
Our cover story this month (page 28) takes a deep dive into the topic, exploring the issues and the challenges–and the potential benefits to the general public and the health care system. dsn
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PARTICIPANTS IN CLINICAL TRIALS SHOULD REPRESENT THE PATIENTS THAT WILL USE THE MEDICAL PRODUCTS.”
CVS using technology to fill prescriptions remotely
CVS is moving along with a plan it initiated in Arizona to help pharmacists fill prescriptions remotely, thereby reducing pharmacists’ workload and allowing them to deliver medical services such as vaccinations and health screenings.
The retailer is using technology such as robotics, automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence across more than 9,000 stores.
“To help our pharmacists provide patients with trusted clinical care and additional pharmacy services, we’ve implemented several programs aimed at reducing the amount of time they spend on administrative tasks,” a CVS representative told Drug Store News
The rep added that the retailer is using a new approach to dynamic workload sharing across more than 9,000 stores – operating as one team and fleet, rather than managing workload at each store individually.
“With our new workshare model, certain parts of pharmacy workflow can be completed virtually and may be done by a team in a neighboring store (that has capacity) or centrally,
Rite Aid’s 2nd small-format store opens in rural Virginia
Rite Aid Pharmacy has opened a new small-format store in Greenville, Va.
This store marks the company’s second Rite Aid Pharmacy location in rural Virginia as part of a pilot program to improve access to pharmacy services in “pharmacy deserts” and underserved communities.
Similar to the Rite Aid Pharmacy that opened in Craigsville several weeks ago, these smaller format stores will feature a full-service pharmacy and a retail assortment of health
varying by state,” the CVS rep said. “This multi-faceted approach to pharmacy workflow is key to how we’re building the pharmacy of the future to optimize our presence in local communities, so we can continue to serve patients where and when they need us most.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that the new system is intended to help pharmacists fill prescriptions remotely as the drugstore chain faces staff shortages and attempts to deliver additional medical services. Prem Shah, CVS’s chief pharmacy officer, told the newspaper that a model for pharmacist-free drugstores is not the company’s goal. Instead, the company is testing if some pharmacies can operate at times without pharmacists on staff, the report said.
and wellness products. This Rite Aid Pharmacy location will occupy approximately 2,400 sq. ft., which is significantly smaller than the standard Rite Aid locations residing within a business strip mall center.
“We are proud to bring vital pharmacy services to this community, making it easier for people to get the medications and products they need to stay healthy,” said Andre Persaud, Rite Aid’s chief retail officer. “Pharmacists play a vital role in the health of our communities by helping individuals understand their conditions and staying up to date on their medications and vaccinations. Our local pharmacy team in Greenville looks forward to becoming that trusted care connector and helping to improve health outcomes.”
Greenville is part of the Staunton-Waynesboro Micropolitan Statistical Area. Currently, the closest pharmacy for Greenville residents exists approximately ten minutes away from the new Rite Aid Pharmacy location, the company said.
Rite Aid plans to open another Rite Aid Pharmacy location in Scottsville, Va., in early 2023.
Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company partners with EmsanaRx
The Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company and EmsanaRx, a pharmacy benefit manager, are joining forces to launch EmsanaRx Plus, which the company described as “a first-of-its-kind supplemental drug discount product designed specifically for employers as a standalone pipeline for lower-cost medicines that have been contracted directly with drug manufacturers by Cost Plus Drugs.”
The EmsanaRx Plus supplemental drug discount product represents a transition for Cost Plus Drugs from operating exclusively in the direct-to-consumer market into the employer market. This new partnership is a response to a growing desire among employers and other healthcare purchasers to work with new market entrants whose interests are aligned with theirs and that of their employees, namely, to reduce wasteful spending and increase transparency, while maintaining access to high-quality care, the company said.
“Like Cost Plus Drugs, EmsanaRx is working to disrupt the current pharmacy supply chain to eliminate the unnecessary markup and profiteering that is burdening businesses and consumers with high drug costs,” founder Mark Cuban said. “By partnering with a company as committed to transparency as Cost Plus Drugs, and with the technological capabilities to customize to the needs of selffunded employers, we are able to bring lower-cost medicines to a wider swath of the American public.”
The relationship with EmsanaRx enables Cost Plus Drugs to offer its low-cost medications to employers due to EmsanaRx’s ability to integrate with employer-sponsored drug benefits. This relationship offers added value to existing employer-based prescription benefit coverage.
Currently, when employee members use prescription drug discount card options, employers lose access to critical information and employees spend money on medications that don’t apply to their health plan deductible or maximum outof-pocket costs. EmsanaRx Plus will provide deep discounts on medications without employees having to go outside of their health plan benefits to realize those savings.
EmsanaRx Plus advocates will assist employers and employees interested in transferring their medications to a lower-cost option, and coordinate with providers on behalf of patients.
“Employers are increasingly recognizing that they’re being held hostage by a consolidated industry playing games that cost them more every year without adding value,” said Greg Baker, CEO of EmsanaRx. “In partnering with Cost Plus Drugs, we will help employers understand where high-cost drugs are a problem in their current benefit design and give them and their employees access to lower-cost alternatives.”
Retailers limiting children’s OTC pain relief products
As cases of COVID-19, flu and RSV tick up, retailers such as CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid have instituted product limits.
A CVS rep shared with Drug Store News that to ensure equitable access for all of its customers, there is currently a two-product limit on all children’s pain relief products at all CVS Pharmacy locations and online.
“We’re committed to meeting our customers’ needs and are working with our suppliers to ensure continued access to these items,” the rep said.
A Walgreens spokesperson provided the following statement to DSN: “Due to increased demand and various supplier challenges, over-the-counter pediatric fever-reducing products are seeing constraints across the country. In an effort to help support availability and avoid excess purchases, we put into effect an online-only purchase limit of six per online transaction for all over-the-counter pediatric fever reducers.”
“Walgreens works diligently to anticipate and avoid product shortages where possible by partnering with new and current suppliers and distributors to minimize the impact and inconvenience for our patients and customers. For customers looking for items, our website updates with the latest available store inventory information frequently throughout the day. Additionally, Walgreens same day delivery and pickup provide contactless options for receiving products,” the spokesperson said.
A Rite Aid spokesperson shared with DSN, “We do not have in-store purchasing limits on these products at this time. As for online, we have limits on the 4 oz. grape flavor of Children’s Tylenol only — and that purchase limit is 5. All other flavors and varieties of Children’s Tylenol do not have any limits on the website.
“We are experiencing high demand of pediatric and adult over-the-counter cold/flu medication and fever reducer/pain reliever due to high illness incidence. We are working closely with suppliers to meet the demand and mitigate shortages where possible. If customers don’t see their preferred cold/ flu treatment products on the shelf, they should speak with the pharmacist for recommendations on other OTC options that best suit their needs,” the Rite Aid rep said.
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New & Noteworthy
HRG’s five notable products from December 2022
Product introductions ended the year on a very strong note, as inflation eased and the Federal Reserve indicated a willingness to pause “jumbo” interest rate hikes starting in December.
For the month of December, suppliers introduced 266 new products, which is 17 more than they introduced in November (and 129 more than they introduced in October). Waukesha, Wis.-based HRG reviewed 39 products in the health category, 90 in the wellness sector and 137 items in the beauty category to see which ones stood out as Products to Watch. Here is what they found:
1. Absorbine Jr. Plus Pain Relief Knee Patch
Specifically designed with an upper and lower patch, the Absorbine Jr. Plus Pain Relief Knee Patch from Bridges Consumer Healthcare can be customized to fit any knee. It contains 7% menthol and 7% camphor, and is formulated to provide up to 12 hours of joint stiffness and muscle soreness relief. The company said the patches are created with flexible material to stay in place and is non-greasy, non-messy, and nonstaining. It comes in a 6-ct. pack.
ARC Leave On Teeth Whitening Treatment
Procter & Gamble’s ARC Leave On Teeth Whitening Treatment is for use on the go. The active peroxide droplets are meant to absorb fast and stay on the teeth while being safe on enamel. P&G claims the treatment will make teeth up to two times whiter compared to the ARC pen. Each tube has 18 mint-flavored leave-on treatments and can be used up to four times a day for quicker results. The tube is .35 ounces.
3. Certain Dri Prescription Strength Dry Spray Antiperspirant Deodorant Extra Fresh
Bridges Consumer Healthcare claims that its Certain Dri Prescription Strength Dry Spray Antiperspirant Deodorant is made with 25% aluminum chlorohydrate that is more of the active ingredient than the leading dry spray. Formulated to provide advanced sweat and odor protection all day, the dry spray is available in extra fresh scent. It comes in a 4.2-oz. bottle.
4. L’Oréal Paris Elvive Hyaluron + Plump Hydrating Shampoo
L’Oréal Paris took inspiration from skin care formulas when creating Elvive Hyaluron + Plump Hydrating shampoo. The product is intended for dry, dehydrated hair and is formulated to provide 72 hours of moisture without weighing hair down. Containing hyaluronic acid, the shampoo is free of parabens and has a fragrance blend that combines berries, cherry blossom, sweet vanilla and sandalwood. The shampoo comes in a 12.6-oz. bottle.
5. Blink Triple Care Dry Eye 3-in-1 Extended Relief Drops
Blink Triple Care Dry Eye 3-in-1 Extended Relief Drops from Johnson & Johnson combines hyaluronic acid and a lipid nanoemulsion to provide instant soothing and long-lasting hydration. Johnson & Johnson claims it has developed the first and only over-the-counter dry eye drop that combines these two active ingredients to tackle both evaporative and aqueousdeficient dry eye. It comes in a 10-ml. bottle. dsn
The Power of Supplier RelationshipsBy Charisse Jacques
How to Create Irresistible Offers
The relationship between retailers and suppliers takes time to build, but the challenge now is that the economy isn’t giving anyone much time. And impatient shoppers are quick to find alternative retailers if the right product at the right price isn’t available from the first store they check.
Like many retail businesses, drug stores are not immune to economic downturn, inflation and supply chain challenges. Drug stores also have a small window of opportunity to capture shoppers’ attention when they are in the store or on the website compared to other retail businesses.
That’s why they need to make the most out of existing loyalty data, which allows them to achieve two things: target shoppers with hyper-personalized offers and build more collaborative relationships with partners. However, most legacy platforms aren’t built to make the most out of loyalty data. That’s why the modern drug store needs modern tools to help deliver targeted, impactful offers.
One way to achieve the right mix of offers is by enabling better collaboration opportunities with CPG partners as well as supplementing current loyalty efforts with AI-enabled insights that drive speed to value and prescriptive insights.
What Should Collaboration Look Like?
The answer to collaboration frequently revolves around technology. It does add immense value, but there is more to it than delivering computer capacity to crunch millions of lines of data in the fastest time possible. After all, if two competing retailers use the same data analytics solution, then it could be argued they should reach the same answers. However, we know this isn’t the case because myriad other variables influence outcomes.
It’d be easy to simply say that people are that variable, but the reality is more nuanced: people can be either a good variable or a bad one. Obviously, collaboration requires the involvement of people, but for it to be a good variable, CPGs and retailers also need to know how to use that same data to make mutually beneficial decisions.
Think of it this way: You and a friend both decide to learn the same foreign language using a learning app. If after a couple of months, you both have only done the lessons but not practiced speaking the language, you won’t make the most out of the experience. This collaborative process is no different: Retailers and CPGs both may have access to similar data, but if they don’t “practice” with each other, all they have is data that may or may not make sense.
To accelerate this relationship-building process, drug stores need to look at AI/ML to analyze data to uncover insights more quickly, make decisions and execute customer-centric retailing tactics. AI/ML also has the added benefit of learning from the data they ingest to increase confidence in the suggestions and data. For instance, that data can be used to guide personalized omnichannel
marketing campaigns, which are increasingly difficult to get right due to shoppers’ dynamic channel preferences. A drug store can also collaborate with its vendor partners to create customer-centric planograms with tailored assortments.
The Win-win-win Model Without AI, data can be a liability. Every drug store has more than enough of it, but if they can’t use it to get to know customers better, then competitors will swoop in. Retailers must be able to customize messages and offers to each customer by incorporating a 360-degree view of shopper attributes with predictive analytics.
The relationship between retailers and CPG partners was once a one-sided affair, with most vendors looking at collaboration programs as revenue-generating initiatives instead of true collaborations.
Modernizing the definition of collaboration in retail sets up the foundation for a win-win-win collaborative model that leads to an increase in incremental sales and profit for both suppliers and retailers by taking a more deliberate approach to driving more trips and growing baskets while rewarding shoppers for their loyalty. dsn
Enabling better collaboration opportunities with CPG partners helps retailers deliver impactful offers to their customers
Charisse Jacques, GM and chief customer centric retailing officer, SymphonyAI Retail CPG
“The relationship between retailers and CPG partners was once a onesided affair, with most vendors looking at collaboration programs as revenuegenerating initiatives instead of true collaborations.”
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AN OPEN LETTER TO PHARMACISTS
As a fellow pharmacist, I’m thrilled to see how the profession has embraced clinical services in the retail space. Going beyond immunizations into areas such as Test-to-Treat for infectious disease and prescribing hormonal contraceptives is reaching a scale never seen in our industry. This rapid growth has caused other stakeholders, such as payers, to ask how pharmacists should be reimbursed for clinical services.
Ultimately, the “pharmacist-as-provider” movement has always been simple: treat pharmacists like other providers. The practical application of this movement means that pharmacists may be subject to credentialling and payer enrollment. Additionally, the process of determining patient benefit coverage and clinical eligibility, and performing medical billing using pharmacist-level NPIs poses new challenges within the typical pharmacy workflow.
Pharmacists should be able to provide patient care without focusing heavily on clinical documentation or medical billing. That means the claims process—whether medical or pharmacy—should have similar “clean claim rates” and require the same or less operational time as pharmacy benefit claims. For pharmacists to adopt clinical services at scale, key capabilities must be addressed and made available within the pharmacy workflow including 1) patient financial and clinical clearance integrated into patient scheduling and pharmacy workflow; 2) provider credentialing and eligibility; 3) simplified clinical documentation that informs the claim; and 4) compliant and timely billing.
As the payer and regulatory landscapes evolve to encompass pharmacy-based clinical services, pharmacy organizations that choose to offer clinical services will be better able to respond quickly if they have revenue cycle functionality fully integrated into their clinical care delivery solution and have access to both pharmacy and medical billing pathways embedded within the pharmacist’s workflow.
I’m excited to say nearly half the pharmacy market is currently implementing an EHR purpose-built for the pharmacy that simplifies the complexities of medical billing (and related clinical documentation) and can handle both the medical- and pharmacy pathway—all within the pharmacy workflow.
After decades of proof points and lobbying, pharmacists have a seat at the table for delivering new clinical services. Pharmacists have evolved to become the tip of the spear for healthcare delivery today. Are you and your organization ready? Whether clinical claims are reimbursed through the pharmacy or the medical benefit, OmniSYS can help.
Go to www.omnisys.com to learn more or to schedule a meeting.
David Pope, PharmD, CDE, Chief Pharmacy Officer, OmniSYS, a XIFIN Company
© 2022 OmniSYS, a XIFIN, Inc. company. All rights reserved.
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Drug Stores’ Expanding
Role in Consumer WellnessLeana Salamah, vice president of marketing, International Housewares Association
What does wellness mean in a post-acute COVID world?
Circumstances that consumers experienced over the last two and a half years — the overall anxiety that COVID-19 caused, coupled with associated lockdowns, changes in work and schooling, separation from family and friends and overall isolation — did a number on our collective well-being.
In January of 2020, the International Housewares Association fielded a consumer survey that asked, in part, what type of wellness (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, etc.) was most important to consumers. It was the height of the omicron variant and yet consumers chose… Mental wellness. Including restfulness, calmness and mental acuity.
Furthermore, those who selected physical wellness were far more concerned with nutrition, energy level and cardiovascular health than they were with weight loss.
Drug stores have always been a purveyor of curative wellness for consumers. For as long as we can remember, we have relied on drug stores to provide the remedy that treats whatever ails us — from prescription and over-the-counter medications to first-aid supplies and orthopedic aids.
Over the last two years, drug stores have played an enhanced role in preventative wellness — most notably in the form of providing vaccines. Granted, drug stores were already providing flu shots and various other inoculations, but many consumers continued to rely on their doctor for those. Then the distribution methods for the COVID-19 vaccines demanded that we view drug stores as a preventative medicine source — and flu, shingles and other vaccines have grown exponentially in these locations as a result.
Preventative wellness is big business. And now drug stores are universally seen as a resource. This concept naturally expands beyond medications and vitamins and into various home + housewares products that are designed to encourage the kind of restfulness, mental calmness and acuity, and sophisticated monitoring of physical markers to encourage healthy habits. Drug stores that embrace a holistic view of preventative wellness across physical AND mental concerns and offer products to that end are likely to increase consumer engagement and, over time, enhance loyalty.
Finally, there is an aspect of wellness that is more socially oriented and that creates challenges of its own to be addressed. We’ll call this supportive wellness.
The consequences of illness have changed — in particular the expectations for how we manage illness in public. We all recall a time before March of 2020 when
it was commonplace for kids to go to school with runny noses, and for co-workers to show up for work with violent coughs. Staying home sick was reserved for only the most extreme situations. And even then, anything beyond two days felt extreme.
The mood is different now. As a society we have recalibrated our tolerance for bringing illness into a public setting downward. This is probably a positive development for our collective physical health, but it places new stressors on families when it creates child-care challenges or unpaid leave from work. If drug stores are to truly treat wellness from start to finish, is there an opportunity to meet this need? The home + housewares industry has been solving these challenges for decades — developing products that make home life more convenient — easier, faster, etc.
Could wellness displays include products that make it easier or faster to cook up that tomato soup and grilled cheese (my 11-year-old son’s meal of choice when he’s sick) or the in-home smart cameras that make me feel more at ease in leaving my kids alone while I go to work? Seems like a complete integrated solution that, as a mom, I would embrace.
Someone will recognize and address these needs. Drug stores are in a unique position to take the last two years of positive goodwill and increased traffic to position themselves as the definitive solution.
The best way to find the home + housewares products that can help you meet these evolving consumer needs is to join us in Chicago this March at The Inspired Home Show. You can learn more about the Show at TheInspiredHomeShow. com and you can browse exhibitors, brands and products at Connect 365 dsn
DSN Industry Issues Summit: Collaboration between pharmacy, medical community
The 24th annual in-person event in November had retailers and the medical community sharing their strategies for collaborating to lower costs and improve outcomesBy Sandy Levy
How can pharmacy and the medical community work together to lower costs and improve access and health outcomes?
This was the question put before a panel of executives at Drug Store News’ Industry Issues Summit, held in person in New York City on Nov. 30.
The panel, “Bridging the Gap Between Pharmacy & the Medical Community: How Working Together Will Lower Costs & Improve Access and Outcomes,” was moderated by Shannon Huneke, a retail and healthcare consultant at Accenture.
Panelists included Priya Mammen, senior medical director, office of clinical integrity at Walgreens; Onisis Stefas, CEO of Northwell & Vivo Health Pharmacy; Marc Watkins, chief medical officer of Kroger; Stacy Burch, vice president, North
America marketing at Embecta; Warren Moore, vice president, Social Determinants of Health Actions at Walmart; Daniel Sanchez, senior vice president and general manager of EnlivenHealth, an Omnicell Innovation; and Kathy Widmer, company group chairman, North America & Latin America Johnson & Johnson.
Huneke asked the panelists to discuss their history of bridging the healthcare experience via partnerships and collaborations.
Commenting on an initiative focused on black maternal health that J&J and Walmart are co-sponsoring, Widmer noted that Walmart partnerships make a difference.
“A couple of years ago, very organically, these two companies were having a conversation, saying, ‘surely we can do
something meaningful.’ The reason the partnership works is that it starts with a concept of purpose,” Widmer said. “Do these two companies care enough to invest to put true resources to stay the course?”
Widmer cautioned that retailers who aspire to form collaborations such as the one J&J and Walmart have need to realize that these “are long programs and retailers need to have mutual values. Between J&J and Walmart we do,” she said.
Pointing out that if you are black and pregnant, throughout and after your pregnancy, you are three times more likely to suffer serious complications or die in the United States, Widmer said values and complementary strengths between partners are essential. “Walmart has the wonderful access, the trusted relationship, and
is close to every consumer and patient in the United States. They have incredible insight and knowledge about the population. J&J brings clinical and behavioral science expertise.”
The support of senior leadership also is crucial. “If you are going to go after something like this, even though there’s passion in the middle of the organization and in junior colleagues, if leadership doesn’t get behind it, it is destined to peter out,” Widmer said.
Moore chimed in, stating that understanding there are true inequities that exist and the willingness to move into action has to start at the top of the organization. “We want to do real-world and not checkthe-box activity. It has to be real. It comes down to how you resource,” Moore said.
The discussion proceeded with Watkins addressing how Kroger creates a holistic approach, putting the patient at the center of everything they do.
Watkins insisted that you need to meet people where they are and understand the friction that happens in communities. “At Kroger, for the past 25 to 28 years we’ve been on a journey to personalize delivery of our service through better understanding of customers,” Watkins said. “We do that through analytics, customer loyalty cards at the point of purchase. Forty-five years ago it was the voice of the consumer. Folks said they need access to care. We said, let’s get into the pharmacy space. Fifteen to 20 years
ago, they said that they need access to care and convenience.”
Kroger has made a commitment to address obesity, and it asked its CPGs to help the retailer create a healthier assortment of food. “We want to bring $58 billion in savings back into the purchase ability of our customers,” Watkins said.
As the discussion shifted, Stefas said that there are four barriers that exist when formulating collaborations in order to meet the needs of the consumer, but they are not insurmountable.
“One barrier is from a technological perspective, but there are ways we can integrate data,” he said. “Two, how are we going to treat the patient? There’s enough evidence-based medicine out there where we can collaborate on who’s doing what and how it’s going to occur. The third barrier is around financials. Today’s stakeholders aren’t aligned. The fourth barrier is healthcare information from a financial perspective. We all know there’s value to these things, but are we willing to share data?”
Mammen addressed next what Walgreens does to close gaps in health care, noting that it’s clear that the role outside of the healthcare system is for all of us as partners to address community health needs.
“Walgreens has access to 80% of the population,” said Mammen, emphasizing that as we understand inequities in health care, it became abundantly clear during the pandemic that access to community-based
outlets “becomes inherently giant. We know that no one size fits all. Where we have the strength is we have our team members and patients who all come from the community. We look to them to identify the issues for that population. We then take data to look at our footprint across the country.”
Commenting on the importance of addressing social determinants of health, Moore said that we know health starts in the home, in our schools and our communities. “The patient experience is an eye toward health equity at Walmart,” he said.
To that end, Walmart held two health equity summits to provide information to its frontline associates. It also is deploying CE and CME to its pharmacists and frontline providers, on how health equity can be addressed in the retail setting.
Burch addressed the topic of personalization, asking, how do we continue to find a better and easier solution for our patients and equip them with the right education during these critical touch points within their healthcare experience? “It’s all about collaboration to help the patients.”
Lastly, Sanchez informed attendees that technology is available for personalized care. “The common theme we hear is how we help transition of care,” he said, noting that when patients are discharged, how do we drive them into the retail setting? “There is a willingness for this to happen. There needs to be work done on the regulatory front.” dsn
Dr. Lauren F. Lyles-Stolz joined NACDS to focus on reimbursement and advocacy issuesBy Hannah Esper
Last year, Dr. Lauren F. Lyles-Stolz, PharmD joined the National Association of Chain Drug Stores as senior director of reimbursement, innovation and advocacy.
She serves as a subject matter expert on pharmacy reimbursement issues specific to Medicaid, Medicare, and other payers. Her new role is a coming home of sorts: She was selected as NACDS’ Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience student in Fall 2015.
“We see Lauren as an immediate-impact member of the NACDS staff team,” said Steven C. Anderson, NACDS president and CEO. “She brings diverse experience and knowledge that will contribute to policy development and advocacy on behalf of NACDS members.”
Drug Store News recently spoke with Lyles-Stolz for a wide-ranging interview.
Drug Store News: Why are reimbursement issues important to NACDS?
Lauren F. Lyles-Stolz: As a pharmacist in reimbursement and innovative healthcare policy, I have learned over time that reimbursement is one of the driving factors that shape how we practice healthcare and transform healthcare for populations. Addressing reimbursement issues is important because it’s how NACDS supports our members in their work to keep their doors open to the Americans who rely on them for an array of pharmacy-based services.
DSN: As In 2015 you were NACDS’ Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience student. How did that role shape you and how will it influence your tenure?
LLS: My Advanced Pharmacy Practice
Experience – or APPE rotation – with NACDS was evocative, and tremendously influenced my interest in strategy and healthcare policy. I had the opportunity to explore innovative and collaborative ways in pharmacy to improve health outcomes, cost savings, and overall patient satisfaction. For instance, while at NACDS in 2015, I was working on telehealth policies – a topic which has been critically important during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure continuity of care. I had no idea how that work would be leveraged to serve the broader population in the nation’s public health response. A culmination of my pharmacy experiences, including my time at NACDS, inspired me to apply for the German Chancellor Fellowship to do population health management research in
Berlin, to work on and advocate for innovative regulatory policies for pharmacy and pharmacists, and to understand the competing priorities in the healthcare arena that can hinder pharmacy progress, pharmacy reimbursement, and patient innovation.
DSN: How has previous work with health legislation at the state level and with the COVID-19 pandemic response prepared you for your role?
LLS: As the former Executive Director of the Washington State Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission, I gained a global perspective of all of the various healthcare and non-healthcare stakeholders, their interests, and where opportunities exist to lead and find common ground on issues that can immensely help patients. As you may know, Washington State was the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it required teamwork, leadership, and patience at the state and federal levels – and among private and public partners – to navigate those unprecedented times. I had the opportunity to serve as the voice of pharmacy on the state’s
COVID-19 reimbursement taskforce, helping ensure that pharmacies and pharmacists received adequate reimbursement for their hard work to test and vaccinate as many people as possible. The relationships I built and sustained in that “pressure-cooker” environment early on in the pandemic, my federal experience in Congress, in the private sector, in association management, and abroad have prepared me to advance NACDS’ and members’ priorities.
DSN: Why did you choose to pursue a pharmacy profession and why did you choose the policy route?
LLS: In short, I kept saying “yes” and pharmacy chose me. Funny longer story: I was recruited from my first job at McAlister’s Deli to work at Kroger as a cashier in Byram, Mississippi, when I was in high school. I had some of the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the store, so my manager asked what I wanted to do with my life. I told him I was interested in going into healthcare because the majority of my family members are
nurses, doctors, or some type of therapist – and then I became the first pharmacist in my family. At that point, I was promoted to work in the community pharmacy and loved my time there up to college. I learned so much from the amazing pharmacists and pharmacy technicians I worked with, as well as the patients or customers who came through the drivethru or into the store with their families and their questions. During pharmacy school, I attended my first pharmacy convention with the National Community Pharmacists Association where I was introduced to the policy route and learned about the macro-level impact of policymaking on patient care, access, and outcomes. This led to my running for the president of NCPA’s Student Leadership Council, co-founding the University of Mississippi’s Advocacy Council and finding every opportunity to come back to Washington, D.C., to work on healthcare policy – in opportunities ranging from those at the FDA to those at NACDS to pharmacy and policy. dsn
Retail pharmacy is branching out into an unexpected area — providing clinical trial services
It is no secret that retailer behemoths are gaining momentum in diversifying into primary care. What’s lesser known is that they also are carving a niche in an unanticipated area: the clinical trial services business.
Retail pharmacy’s foray into clinical trial services may raise some eyebrows, but it is a no-brainer given their enhanced focus on improving patient outcomes in the communities they serve. Additionally, there is an increased need by pharmaceutical companies to develop and bring newBY SANDRA LEVY
drugs and vaccines to market amid increased regulatory efforts by the Food and Drug Administration to promote clinical trial invitation and participation among diverse adults. It’s clear that branching out into this space is a win-win-win for retailers, patients and pharma companies.
Still, forging ahead in the clinical trials space can be a daunting endeavor given the lack of awareness among prospective participants. In fact, in 2020, 41% of Americans reported not knowing anything about clinical trials, according to The
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This substantial lack of awareness comes as the number of clinical trials is soaring. According to the National Institutes of Health, the number of registered clinical trials grew by 37,000 from 2021 to 2022.
Michael Abrams, managing partner of consulting firm Numerof & Associates, said the pandemic highlighted that minority groups have more health problems and less access to healthcare delivery, yet clinical trials typically do not reflect the minorities that make up the broader U.S. population. “Roughly 80% of the populations that are involved in clinical trials are white participants and minorities, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and native Americans are underrepresented,” Abrams said.
to 2022.SOURCE: NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH
Catherine Gregor, chief clinical trials officer for Florence Healthcare, echoed Abrams’ sentiments, and advised the industry to make sure it’s reaching patients representative of real-world populations. “This will mean relying on different types of sites and moving research further into communities where patients live,” Gregor said.
Prime standouts that have the capability to move research into communities and are making headway in the clinical trial space include CVS Health, Walgreens and Walmart.
In June, Walgreens, which had some experience recruiting participants for trials, launched a techenabled clinical trial business.
“Early on we dipped our toes into clinical trials when manufacturers reached out to simply send out letters to our patient communities to elicit interest,” said Ramita Tandon, chief clinical trials officer of
Walgreens. “It was an opportunity for manufacturers to tap into our ecosystem. This year we launched more of a tech-enabled solution that allows us to invest in the area of real-world evidence and become more precise in how we find patients and make sure we are bringing the right trials to the right patients in our communities.”
Another player, CVS Health, is cementing itself in the clinical trials industry. For a decade the retailer has operated a home research organization that has supported more than 200 clinical trials, particularly in oncology, in patients’ homes. It also operates a group that has completed 100-plus real-world evidence studies for pharma companies.
Eyeing a more expansive vision of the role it could play within clinical research, CVS Health created Clinical Trial Services, aka CTS, in May 2021.
“CVS Health redefined the problems it wanted to solve within clinical research, including a focus on the patient and health equity, and industry and regulators’ excitement and interest in community models to help them achieve those goals,” said Tony Clapis, head of CVS Health Clinical Trial Services.
The depth of CTS’ ability to support pharma and patients is evidenced by its ability to help patients access therapies in phase 2 and 3, do follow up and safety work, and produce a compelling set of evidence around how well the products work in phase 4.
Walmart, while a newcomer in the clinical trials business space, is making inroads since launching Healthcare Research Institute in October 2022.
Emphasizing that for therapies to be successful, they need to be evaluated in everyone who may take them, John Wigneswaran, chief medical officer of Walmart said, “We saw during the pandemic the importance of having equitable healthcare research to inform safe and effective therapies for all in the setting of COVID-19. Walmart Healthcare Research Institute will be focused on innovative interventions and medications that can make a difference in underrepresented communities, including older adults, rural residents, women, minority populations and more.”
Since beginning outreach earlier in 2022, Walmart has engaged with thousands of patients and seen a referral rate at three times the industry
The number of registered clinical trials grew by 37,000 from 2021
benchmark. But while those numbers are impressive, Wigneswaran said the company is measuring success based on its ability to make an impact on health equity and bring solutions to customers who have previously been overlooked.
The ability to offer convenient options for patients to participate in clinical trials is a hallmark of successful retailers in this space.
One only has to look at Walgreens.
Noting the COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the need for the clinical trials industry to come together and find different ways to engage patients, Tandon said that because of the shut down patients were unable to get to clinical trial centers and manufacturers were looking at novel ways to reach consumers in trials moving forward.
“That momentum has carried forward and the industry is now looking at ways to leverage Walgreens using our footprint as an opportunity to bring trials into our communities,” Tandon said. “We are creating opportunities to afford better convenience for patients to participate and start to remove some of the barriers that traditionally exist for patients for clinical trials.”
One of the biggest barriers to patient participation has been a structural one, especially for patients in the deep South and in rural areas. When patients sign up for trials and have to travel far distances to academic medical centers, they often don’t participate in follow-up visits.
“The dropout rate is more than 20% and that becomes a big loss leader for clinical trials,” Tandon said.
To overcome that barrier, Walgreens has a flexible set of options. It has activated 10 clinical trial centers at its Health Corner locations in California, New Jersey and Ohio. It also offers the option to participate via phone calls and through its recent acquisition of CareCentrix, Walgreens can conduct certain aspects of clinical trials in a patient’s home.
CTS also is heavily focused on convenience and is offering trial participation virtually and in people’s homes.
Noting that patients have had to travel about two hours to get to a site, which are often located in urban areas, Clapsis said the inconvenience leads to some of the challenges in retention.
“One in five patients drops out of clinical trials because of the burden associated with participating in the clinical trial itself,” Clapsis said. “CVS is helping recruit patients across
geographies, across states and deep into communities. We have a 20-year history of having over 1,100 MinuteClinics, and a deep foundation in protocolized work led by our nurse practitioners, which enables us to bring research into that environment and have the confidence you’re going to do it in a way that meets patients’ and sponsors’ expectations.”
CTS has brought research opportunities to 25 million members, and it has enrolled roughly 20,000 patients across 15 therapeutic areas.
Walmart is not standing on the sidelines when it comes to convenience. The retailer has created MyHealthJourney, a digital tool that makes it easier for people to join clinical studies while also simplifying their care and closing care gaps. With MyHealthJourney patients receive reminders for care services and research opportunities to help them keep their health on track.
“This digital tool allows research patients to access their own health information, including eligible medical records and insurance information, as well as gain insights on how their health measures up to the latest evidencebased guidelines,” Wigneswaran said.
Additionally, Walmart is working with a wide range of study partners that will be facilitating research, including clinical research organizations, pharmaceutical
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companies and leading academic medical centers, including CTI Clinical Trial & Consulting Services and Laina Enterprises. “As we progress, we’ll look to see how our pharmacies may be able to serve as a location where patients can receive study medicines and function as a study site, making healthcare research more accessible to our customers,” Wigneswaran said.
Attracting and retaining diverse participants is a crucial responsibility for retailers in the clinical trials space.
CTS is a prime example.
“We’re operating in 12 states,” Clapsis said. “Beyond patient demographics, we looked at social determinants of health, key criteria to ensure we are opening locations in areas that traditionally did not have access or as much access to help them broadly do clinical research.”
Walgreens also places a priority on ensuring diversity in trials.SOURCE: THE NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE’S HEALTH INFORMATION NATIONAL TRENDS SURVEY
The retailer has made significant investments to create a “real-world evidence engine,” which brings together the patient’s pharmacy records and access to the patient’s clinical records. “We’ve created this infrastructure in a very highly compliant regulatory fashion along with protecting patient privacy,” Tandon said. “The insights we’re able to glean allow us to index where those patients are located, and when we speak to the drug manufacturer, we’re very intentional about making sure that we are including patients from geographic regions or communities that have never been tapped into. Less than 5% of the U.S. population participates in clinical research, and of that 75% are white, so we are making sure from a patient population perspective that we’re
tapping into communities and introducing those communities to manufacturers as potential trial candidates for these trials.”
Addressing equity also is a top priority for Walmart.
Pointing out that for decades, clinical trials have not been representative of the population at large and often recruit patients who live near research centers, have the time and are financially able to participate, Wigneswaran said, “Many groups have been underrepresented in research, including older adults, rural residents, minority populations and individuals of low socioeconomic status. By increasing access to healthcare research, that research can become more accurate and specific to different patient populations, improving the overall quality of care for all.”
Noting that 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart, which has 3,991 locations in medically underserved areas, Wigneswaran said, “Walmart is in a unique position to reach traditionally underrepresented people and offer access to healthcare research where they shop for everyday essentials.”
Beyond increasing the diversity of participants, building awareness and trust are paramount to success in this space.
Education and trust are two things that Walgreens is passionate about.
“Walgreens is making sure that it is educating the communities as part of our community surround sound. When a patient receives an outreach from Walgreens around a particular clinical trial, we want to make sure that that patient has been appropriately informed and educated about what a clinical trial is so it makes sense and they feel empowered to make the right decision,” Tandon said. “It’s about the ‘triple E’ framework of engaging, empowering and enabling patients in their community to understand clinical trials and make the right decision for themselves.”
Providing education and building trust also are top of mind for CVS.
Pointing out that only about 5% of Americans have ever participated in clinical research opportunities, Clapsis said, “There’s a general lack of awareness and access to research. It’s about your relationship, and trust. The two are closely connected. We felt confident that this is something our patients were going to
In 2020, of Americans reported not knowing anything about clinical trials
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welcome and view as an extension of the relationship that we have with them. You see that trust with CVS pharmacists and clinicians in the relationships that we have.”
CTS also works with health systems and primary care specialist groups. “We’re able not to just go directly to the member, but also reinforce trust in the relationships by working with partners in these communities to ultimately galvanize ourselves around the needs of the patient,” Clapsis said.
As retailers provide clinical trial services, they also are finding that collaborations with partners are crucial.
Take the case of Walgreens. “We recognize that we cannot do this alone. We’re being very intentional and purposeful as we create an ecosystem of partners to help support and move the needle in some of these big areas around diversity, equity and inclusion,” Tandon said. “We’re being very thoughtful as we bring on partners, particularly as we’re looking to mobilize efforts and start to educate and empower our patients in our communities.”
Walgreens partners are not only pharma manufacturers; they are healthcare systems and technology companies, too. “Healthcare systems want to leverage our physical footprints to bring patients in for follow up visits and ensure that patients are retained during the course and duration of clinical trials,” Tandon said. “We partner with technology companies to bring more solutions into the overall workflow.”
CTS is no stranger to working with partners in the clinical trials space.
Pointing out that it’s important to understand from the disease state what are all of the criteria characteristics of the kinds of patients who may be eligible, Clapsis said, “How do you identify the right technology partners that can help you build the patient experience you want while managing your data in the way that’s most effective for the trial itself? With Medable and other partners we’ve been focused on building the technology solution we need for our nurses and clinicians to be able to deliver the services to members and operate at the top of their game.”
Utilizing a multi-disciplinary approach that includes pharmacists also is critical for success in the clinical trials business.
Walgreens is a frontrunner in taking this approach.
“As we expand the role of the pharmacy infrastructure overall in health care, the same applies to the world of clinical trials,” Tandon said. “The physician has the role as the primary investigator in clinical trials, and the pharmacists along with our health advisors — including nurses — are all part of the care team and will engage the patients in the course of clinical trials. When patients do select the option to come into a local pharmacy to be able to learn more about the clinical trials, that’s when the pharmacists will be able to have an opportunity to have a dialogue with that potential patient and have them understand the benefits of participating in clinical trials.”
CTS also is using a multidisciplinary care team approach.
“You need multiple components,” Clapsis said. “One is a principal investigator, a doctor, who oversees the study. In MinuteClinics often the nurse practitioner is conducting the specific visit, and is supported by a clinical research coordinator, who is supported by a pharmacist and a research pharmacist who handle the investigational product.”
What disease states are ripe for clinical trials in the future?
Walgreens’ priorities are to look at disease conditions that impact the swath of the nation, and which have healthy equity issues, such as cardiovascular outcomes, diabetes and chronic kidney diseases.
“We are planning to continue to expand and help support drug developers as they are conducting trials, particularly as they are looking to respond to diversifying their clinical trials,” Tandon said. “We are very focused on growing in a number of critical disease areas.”
CTS, which is supporting trials in 15 therapeutic areas, including vaccines, metabolic and dermatology, plans to expand into additional therapeutic areas as well as the states where it conducts trials. “Let’s have a network that can deliver patients the choice and experience they want and deliver for sponsors who are running these studies the ability to start studies sooner, obtain patients better and hit all of the other end points they are looking to do,” Clapsis said.
Walmart Healthcare Research Institute, which is initially focused on diabetes, cardiovascular disease, COVID-19 and asthma, is looking at HIV, dementia, obesity and rare disease as future opportunities and will focus on innovative interventions and medications that can make a difference in underrepresented communities.
Perhaps Wigneswaran summed up the future for all retailers in the clinical trials research space best with these words: “Our goal is to make an immediate impact for our customers and the medical research community. We’re in a unique position to reach traditionally underrepresented people and offer access to healthcare research where they shop for everyday essentials.” dsn
The dropout rate is more than 20% and that becomes a big loss leader for clinical trials.
— RAMITA TANDON, CHIEF CLINICAL TRIALS OFFICER, WALGREENS
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How marketers are winning the skin care game
Mass market skin care sales remain a bright spot in the beauty category — outpacing gains in almost all other categories. As a result, brands like CeraVe, Cetaphil and Neutrogena go toe-to-toe with prestige brands three times their price tags.
With a challenging microeconomic climate, drug and discount stores are luring more shoppers to their shelves for skin care. DSN investigates why shoppers think it is cool to buy mass skin care right now:
1. Earned Trust: Brands sold in mass stores, especially legendary names such as Olay, CeraVe, Curel, Garnier and Neutrogena, have proven track records. According to an IRI report presented at the second annual Dermatology and Retail Alliance in Austin, Texas, 64% of shoppers polled believe brands sold by drug stores or mass merchandisers are as good as higher-priced department store brands.
2. Value for the Price: Success of mass brands prove skin care doesn’t need to break the bank. “As the beauty industry has evolved over the past five to 10 years, there has become greater access to high-quality ingredients, product technology and shared expertise. This has allowed more brands to create incredible products at a variety of price points and offer them at different retailers outside of prestige department stores,” said Jeremy Abesera, founder and CEO of Provence Beauty, which will soon be available at Ulta Beauty for less $25. “We believe this shift made way for more savvy shoppers who know that price point no longer dictates product efficacy or performance.”
Dermatologists have long recommended CeraVe because of the range’s efficacy and its fair pricing. CeraVe is the leading brand in almost every skin care subcategory in multi-unit doors, per IRI.
“We at CeraVe have always believed that skin care does not need to be expensive or complicated to be effective. Since inception, CeraVe’s foundation has been rooted in dermatology and a commitment to provide affordable, efficacious products
backed by science,” said CeraVe’s Jasteena Gill, vice president of marketing of the brand whose products are priced under $35. “As we continue to expand our arsenal of products, from cleansers and sunscreens to acne treatments, therapeutic ointments and more, ensuring all formulas are efficacious, developed with dermatologist and available at a drug store price continues to be a priority so that consumers can easily create a skin care routine customized to their needs.”
3. Experts on Hand: The presence of pharmacists and/or trained beauty consultants is part of the appeal of mass marketers. Retailers are taking that knowledge to the next level. Walgreens is freeing up pharmacists so they can interact with customers who have skin care concerns. They work in conjunction with the retailer’s more than 3,000 beauty experts who are trained to recommend skin care regimens, according to Heather Hughes,
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Walgreens group vice president, GMM of beauty, personal care and seasonal.
Rite Aid develops educational information about new skin care products that is shared with its pharmacists, according to Summer Kerley, Rite Aid’s vice president, clinical and market access solutions. There is a barrage of new skin care items hitting the market, Kerley said, and the education helps everyone in the store know what’s new and where to find it. There are greater opportunities to leverage the symbiotic relationships between pharmacists, derms and beauty experts.
Studies show almost 70% of Americans indicate they have some skin issue, yet only 38% seek the help of derms or other professionals. Derms also face restrictions from insurers who won’t always pay for topical solutions, so they recommend retail options. This leaves a gap that pharmacists and beauty advisors can fill. While social media has spurred sales with hacks and tips, there is also a great deal of misinformation. Derms and other experts are joining in and bringing well-informed posts and often directing shoppers to stores with professionals who can help them find the right product.
4. Derm Brands are Proliferating:
The facial skin care brands with the greatest consumer reach are mostly dermatologist recommended, according to Laura Toscani, consultant analytics and insights at IRI. The researcher’s data revealed that consumers buying derm-focused brands spend 14% more than average skin care shoppers. More than 50% of those queried said lines backed by derms are important in making a purchasing decision. Demand encourages more derm brands to expand to mass doors.
CVS is currently experimenting with Skin Care Centers filled with derm-recommended brands such as CeraVe, LaRoche-Posay and Vichy, along with emerging lines such as Volition, Wander Beauty, Blume and, recently, Proactiv. “We made the move to introduce Skin Care Centers, complete with on-site skin diagnostic tools, guidance from CVS Beauty Consultants and licensed estheticians and
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products that until that point had only been found in prestige beauty retail,” said Andrea Harrison, CVS’ vice president of beauty and personal care. “This, combined with some of the most well-loved, clinically proven skin care brands we already offered, created an enhanced new assortment.”
Derm heritage is certainly a secret weapon for CeraVe.
“We firmly believe the reason we have experienced long-term success as a brand is because of the dermatologist-developed formulas intentionally curated with our namesake ingredient, ceramides,” Gill said. “Our formulas curated with three skinidentical ceramide ensures that all CeraVe products work to simultaneously restore and repair the skin barrier while also providing their individual benefits, so that consumers have a diverse range of effective, affordable products to choose from to curate their skin care routine. Word of mouth has continued to be a key factor in the success of our brand, which includes dermatologists recommending our products to their patients, leading to new users and lasting brand loyalists.”
5. Technology Democratizes the Skin Care Shopping Experience: Despite the increase in trained staff on the floor, the mass market is still primarily self-service — a challenge for a SKU-intensive category like skin care. Technology is helping sort through the confusion. CVS’ Skin Care Centers offer on-site skin diagnostic tools to help consumers identify customized skin solutions. The centers offer two L’Oréalowned tools: LED technology from SkinScope and ModiFace’s Derm Skin analyzer. Consultants from L’Oréal’s Active Cosmetics Division are employed by the centers to operate the SkinScope LED technology to help consumers find the right products from L’Oréal’s brand portfolio, including CeraVe, La Roche-Posay and Vichy. A ModiFace Derm Skin analyzer is an AI-based technology developed by dermatologists to precisely assess skin and any potential changes through live video.
6. The Wellness Factor: Skin care is considered part of overall wellness routines. Pharmacies have a leg up when it comes to selling ingestibles, which are gaining notice for improving beauty from the inside. “Supplements work well since mass marketers are getting into the business and there is synergy with pharmacies,” explained Yamit Sadok, vice president of marketing, Twinlab Consolidation Corporation, which offers a range of items to benefit skin, hair and nails, including its Reserveage brand. The intersection of beauty and wellness is top of mind at Ulta Beauty.
“In the last year we rolled out The Wellness Shop in 800 of our doors,” said Ulta Beauty’s vice president of skin care, sun care, fragrances and bath Penny Coy. “There are wellness products throughout the store, but this curated area showcases products that range from facial products to ingestibles/supplements to taking the spa routine at home beyond the pandemic. In the last month we rolled out intimate wellness taking products such as devices and lubricants and making them accessible to guests.”
7. Mass Wins the Space Race: Skin care is becoming segmented with specific products for acne, eczema, etc. Mass merchants, according to Juan Morillo, marketing director for Xtreme Beauty/Okay Pure Naturals, have space to offer items to match all needs. “Mass merchandisers and drug stores are winning because they house so many different products. Department stores are limited in their selections and lack product diversity. Drug store brands have stepped their game up and include the same or the equivalent ingredients to high-end department store brands,” he said, adding that consumers are more informed than ever on ingredients and their benefits and expect to see a full array of choices.
On the Cusp of New Trends: The mass market has launched, rather than followed, several skin care breakthroughs such as patches. Hero Cosmetics’ Mighty Patch (whichSource: IRI
Provence Beauty is launching at Ulta Beauty for less than $25.
was just acquired by Church & Dwight), for example, bowed at Target. Chains such as Target and Walmart provide launch pads for nascent brands. Clean and sustainable brands also appeared on drug and discount shelves ahead of many department stores, propelled by lines such as Pacifica, Pura D’or and Burt’s Bees. Bigbox retailers were out of the gate fast on K-beauty. New in the space is Heal Me CICA, a range of five products under the JOAH banner. The CICA ingredient (known as ‘tiger grass’ because tigers in Asia would roll around in the plant to help heal their wounds), is used in skin care for healing and soothing properties, according to Hae Jin, JOAH’s brand director. The five items include a blurring and cooling primer, a foam cleanser, toner pads, spot patches and a cooling gel mist. dsn
of shoppers polled believe brands sold by drug stores or mass merchandisers are as good as higher-priced department store brands.
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Murad brings dermatological, pharmaceutical approach to eczema careBy Gisselle Gaitan
Murad is continuing to tackle the skin care needs of every consumer with its new Eczema Control collection. Consisting of three products — Soothing Oat and Peptide Cleanser, Quick Relief Colloidal Oatmeal Treatment and Daily Defense Colloidal Oatmeal Cream — the line looks to help provide relief for the symptoms of eczema.
Drug Store News recently spoke to Howard Murad, a board-certified dermatologist, pharmacist and founder of Murad Skincare, about the line and how it caters to all consumers.
Drug Store News: Why was it important for Murad to create the Eczema Control collection?
Howard Murad: Millions of people in the United States have some form of eczema, but there aren’t many effective solutions that felt cosmetically elegant to treat it. We wanted to bring a dermatologist and pharmaceutical approach to eczema care that was previously only addressed with prescriptions and expert care.
DSN: Can you tell us about the collection, and how it tackles various skin care concerns?
HM: Our new Eczema Control line aims to give people access to effective dermatology treatment without the cost or steroids. Further, as a brand, we are committed to conquering the global epidemic of stress –and eczema flare-ups can often manifest as a result of stress. Stress can trigger an overabundance of cortisol, stimulating inflammation that can irritate skin and trigger (or worsen) a flare-up. With our new eczema products, we hope to alleviate the emotional stress that is often associated with having eczema and prevent the stress that can trigger eczema.
DSN: Can the products from the line be used by those who do not have eczema?
HM: Our Eczema Control line wasn’t just
Howard Murad, a dermatologist and founder of Murad Skincare, said his company is bringing a dermatologist and pharmaceutical approach to eczema care.
created as highly effective eczema care –it’s luxurious skin care that anyone with sensitive skin will want to use. The product formulas are lightweight, creamy and soothing to make treating eczema more like self-care and less like a chore. Our steroid-free solution is uniquely blended with advanced ingredients beyond just
colloidal oatmeal, including ground cherry extract, mondo grass sugars and micellar cleansing peptides. These ingredients work together to deliver instant relief and a long-term improvement in overall skin health. Lastly, our line of eczema products is also silicon free, petrolatum free and vegan. dsn
Premium Brands Still a Powerhouse for the Pet AisleBy Joe Toscano, Vice President, Trade & Industry Development at Purina
It can be easy to get caught up in trends and just focus on what’s new. Trendy an d n ew f ee ls fr e sh an d c an off e r an e xc itng worl d of possibilit e s. In th e p e t category, this can mean that retailers so me t me s ove rlook on e of th e large st categories in pet – premium pet food – which includes trusted, iconic brands like Dog Chow®, Cat Chow®, Friski e s® an d Be n e ful®. In fa c t, Cat Chow is th e number one dry cat brand in the U.S. based on dollar sales1 an d Dog Chow has the number one SKU in the dry dog category2 . These brands are true pet food powerhouses.
Th e p e t c ate gory is boo ming. Ove r th e last thr ee years, th e p e t populaton in th e U.S. has also grown by a littl e m or e than four percent and has added 7.5 million mouths to feed, which brings the total number of dogs and cats in the U.S. to 185 million. Consequently, th e p e t c ar e c ate gory c ontnu e s to grow at near record highs. As of October 8, 2022 3 , the pet care category has seen a 16 p e r ce nt in c r eas e in sal e s ve rsus th e pr e vious year. This strong growth is also seen in the premium pet food category with many of Purina’s premium pet food brands showing double-digit growth with most actually exceeding the total category growth.
But what does that mean for retailers? In the dog category, premium dry dog food has the second highest number of households, and the highest pound buying rate. On ave rage, th e pr emiu m dog food household purchases 139 pounds of dog food each year, which is 38 poun d s m or e than that of th e valu e dog buying household. That is a lot of dog food! The premium dry cat food category has the highest household count with roughly 19.7 million
1Niels en Data, AOC+PR+ECOM, latest 52 weeks, ending 3/26/22
2Niels en AOC+PR latest 52wks ending 3/26/22
3Niels en AOC + PR through 10/8/22
4Niels en Panel Data ending 1/1/22
households buying premium cat food in 20214 . On ave rage, th e pr emiu m d ry c at hous e hol d s buy an ave rage of 62 pounds of dry cat food a year, which is 63 percent more than super premium buyers.
Wh e n we look at gro ce ry an d mass stor e s, we also know that th e majority of puppy an d kitt e n own e rs start th e ir p e ts off with pr emiu m d ry foo d nutriton. Puppy Chow® an d Kitt e n Chow® ar e th e hous e hol d l ea de rs in puppy an d kitt e n nutriton, and these brands are specially formulated to meet the unique nutriton n eed s puppi e s an d kitt e ns have d uring th e ir first year of lif e to support their rapid growth and de ve lop me nt. With su c h a large buying power, it is no wonder the premium segment has such a large impact on the total pet food category.
As we look ah ea d to th e i m pa c t of ongoing inflaton, we know that th e premium pet food category will be
ke y for c onsu me rs an d r e tail e rs. Th e core consumers within the premium segment are the most loyal to their brand of any segment. This high degree of loyalty an d c onfi de n ce in th e s e iconic brands means that premium pet foo d shopp e rs ar e not like ly to swit c h. It is i m portant that r e tail e rs off e r a vari e ty of th e pr emiu m for mulas these consumers prefer and in the sizes they want. Retailers carrying the premium dog and cat food products their consumers desire are able to turn shoppers into loyal consumers who know th e y d on’t have to look b e yon d your stor e to fin d what th e ir p e ts n eed
Ar e you allo c atng th e right spa ce in your stor e to valu e, pr emiu m, an d super premium pet products? To learn more, reach out to your Purina sales associate.
Winning the Beauty Pagent
With competition from other channels mounting, drug stores pursue more timely, trendy beauty offeringsBy Debby Garbato
In 1955, Walgreens distributed a blackand-white flier in Albany, N.Y. It read, “Fine Toiletries, Moderately Priced.” Over the years, Walgreens and other drug chains became leaders in affordable beauty products. With department stores controlling beauty’s upper tier, they were convenient destinations for young women. Beauty brands aggressively targeted these shoppers through TV and glossy magazine ads.
The 21st century dramatically changed everything. Department stores declined while other retailers gained prominence. Today, Sephora, Ulta, Target and Walmart are formidable drug store beauty competitors. Instead of TV and fashion magazines, Gen Y and Gen Z women get beauty tips from social media and online influencers. And rather than mega brands, they often embrace entrepreneurial “indie” and the other unique, environmentally conscious brands these retailers offer.
“In the Sephora era, we started seeing a shift away from department store beauty with retailers like Target building it out,” said Katie
U.S. online beauty should grow by 2023Source: macarta.
Thomas, who leads the Kearney Consumer Institute. “Walmart and Target have done a great job experimenting with brands, keeping beauty exciting. Drug stores haven’t evolved this way.”
Online beauty sales also continue to rise. According to macarta.com, U.S. online beauty should grow 48% by 2023. E-commerce helps women find unique items and is convenient. “There’s higher expectations,” said Alison Schilling, managing director, L.E.K. Consulting. “Younger generations want new products as trends change. Amazing search functions let you find very specific things.
[Amazon] Prime has changed the game for everyone.”
Drug stores and some established brands are fighting back, aligning with influencers and personalizing beauty
with special services, wider ethnic assortments and unique products that meet specific needs. They are emphasizing environmentally friendly merchandise and have removed harmful ingredients from some items. And, they want to turn around faster with new products.
“They’re trying to find a happy medium, figuring out logistics and how to swap products out quickly,” Thomas said. “They continue expanding offerings, such as shampoos and conditioners, that meet different hair needs.”
But drug chains need to do more. According to Magid Associates’ 2022 study, “Status of the U.S. Consumer,” young women’s favorite physical stores include: Walmart, popular among 46%; Target, 33%; Dollar General, 32%; Sephora, 15%; Walgreens, 23%; CVS, 21%; and Rite Aid, 11%. Among the general population, percentages were lower for most of these chains.
How Gens Y & Z Discover New Beauty Brands
Influencers or people I follow on social channels or podcasts TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Youlube, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc., 29% 44%
Promotions or engagement efforts by the brands on social channels or podcast 19% 20%
Ads on social media channels or podcasts 23% 27%
Traditional advertising; TV, Radio, Print, catalog mailed to home, postcard mailed to home 25% 17%
Text messages from brands I subscribe to 11% 10%
Friend or family recommendation 31% 32%
My own research online or in-person 41% 39%
Discover while browsing or shopping online 34% 31%
Discover in my online search results or other suggestions 24% 23%
Discover while in a physical store 31% 26%
Streaming services such as podcasts, free streaming TV services with advertising, music streaming services with ads (Pandora, Spotify, etc.) 21% 22%
At my fitness studio or gym 12% 7%
Seen at an event, in a magazine or in public on an influencer 13% 11% Some other way 1% 0%
NET 100% 100%
At Target, sales of beauty and household essentials have grown 26% or more for three consecutive years. Ulta Beauty’s 2022 annual revenue was $8.631 billion, a 40.3% increase from 2021. Except for 2021 (impacted by COVID-19), sales have steadily increased for 15 years.
For CVS, 2021 front-end same store sales grew 7.6% due to stronger performance in HBC and OTC test kits. Walgreens’ nonpharmacy sales declined 0.4%. Rite Aid’s total front-end sales fell. But a revamped beauty assortment including “clean” makeup buoyed color cosmetics revenue 5.7% in Q1 2022.
Drug Chain Hurdles
Drug chains face unique challenges when it comes to reimagining a category: They often have smaller stores, cannot carry upscale
brands and focus heavily on pharmacy. And they are not usually first to market.
“Drug stores are more followers than leaders, not the tip of the spear for entrepreneurs,” said Andrew Csicsila, Americas leader of Alix Partners’ consumer products practice. “Introducing indie brands is a big investment. I haven’t seen drug getting behind them like Target and Ulta, which are destinations.”
Entrepreneurial “indie” brands represent 1.7% of beauty sales, said Nielsen’s Indie Brands Intelligence report, but they are impactful and growing. Sometimes, indies are nurtured and adopted by mainstream retailers, for which they help differentiate offerings. But speed is essential when introducing them, since young women constantly seek new items. According to Nielsen, indie brands cut the innovation
Winning Retail Concepts
Online, mass and specialty channels are posing a bigger competitive threat to drug chains when it comes to targeting young women in beauty by offering innovative products, creative merchandising and on-trend marketing. Here is a brief look at what some competitors are doing:
• UB Media, launched in May, allows brands to utilize digital ads to target rewards members, thus personalizing engagement.
• MUSE Accelerator (September) supports early-stage BIPOC brands to launch and thrive at retail. Support includes financial support to foster development.
• Introduced in June 2020 in select stores via a partnership with Credo Beauty, an exclusive clean beauty collection offers “unparalleled transparency” in sourcing, fragrance and ingredients.
• Conscious Beauty, launched in October 2020, indicates which brands are cruelty free, vegan, utilize sustainable packaging and/or contain clean ingredients.
• Ulta offers several exclusive brands, including Kylie Cosmetics, Kylie Jenner’s label.
• Ulta stores feature in-house hair styling and makeup services, making them destinations.
• The retailer does separate merchandising for natural beauty products.
• Trial sizes let shoppers try pricey items with minimal investment.
• In August, Ulta Beauty sections were launched at 100-plus stores.
• In February 2022, Target added almost 40 new beauty brands, including “clean” and black-owned labels. Most items are $10 or less.
• In March 2022, Target held the sixth cohort of its Target Takeoff program,
cycle from 18 to 24 months to less than 20 weeks. Can drug chains keep pace?
“Younger beauty consumers move faster than any other generation,” said Sonika Malhotra, CMO U.S. hair care, Unilever, and co-founder of all-natural hair and skin care brand Love, Beauty and Planet. “The cycle is shorter. Retailers and manufacturers must keep up with innovation. It’s moving faster than their insights. Target has really stepped up its game. Walmart has a huge platform and Amazon is trying to do so. Reacting quickly isn’t a choice. Somebody will do it faster.”
In recent years, drug stores’ priorities have revolved around expanding pharmacy services and adding produce and prepared food. “Drug real estate has been changing a lot, with pharmacy and fresh and on-the-go
which provides mentorship and a customized curriculum for new beauty brands.
• Target offers exclusive beauty brands PIXI by Petra and Sonia Kashi.
• Walmart launched five indie brands in 2021: Bubble (skin care); Uoma by Sharon C. (cosmetics); Monday Haircare; Health by Habit (supplements); and Luna Magic (cosmetics).
• In August, five up-and-coming beauty companies were selected to participate in an accelerator program titled Walmart Start. The brands get the chance to introduce products at Walmart.
• In October, the retailer implemented Walmart Creator. Online Creators who sign up get to review tens of thousands of products while earning commission on sales they refer. Platform users can share product links to any social platform, receive product recommendations based on interests and affinities and collect valuable performance data to help grow their community and followings.
foods,” Schilling said. “Beauty hasn’t changed as much. They haven’t pushed the envelope like Target. In beauty, balance of shelf must change.”
Drug chains’ strategies also involve having multiple smaller stores per market; other channels erect one large store per market. “How many CVS’s are there per square mile compared to a Target?” Csicsila said. Beauty’s position near drug stores’ entrances, however, is an advantage. “It’s very prominent.”
Drug Chain Strategies
For drug chains, better meeting young women’s needs involves first understanding their wants and then further personalizing products and shopping experiences. CVS has been doing this by tapping into its extensive ExtraCare rewards data and leveraging its retail media network. Last year, CVS named influencer Nyma Tang as its first beauty inclusivity consultant. The African-American influencer has 1.5 million Instagram and YouTube followers.
“We’re leveraging influencer partnerships for exclusive products and launches in addition to building our retail media network with suppliers to get the right products and messages in front of the right consumers,” said Andrea Harrison, vice president of merchandising, beauty and personal care.
CVS carefully monitors trends. It also wants to make assortments more store specific. “We’re continuously looking to discover up-and-coming relevant brands for customers’ evolving needs,” Harrison said. “We’re working toward a much more localized view of offerings. We recognize consumers’ diversity. It’s our ongoing mission to feature trends and brands that speak to shoppers while offering value and innovation.”
CVS’ Beauty in Real Life (BeautyIRL) concept encourages discovery of new brands and trends. This expanded department features new social and indie brands, hairstyling and other services through outside provider Glamsquad. Launched in 2018, it’s in 160 locations.
In July, Skin Care centers were added to three of these stores, Harrison said. Using advanced LED technology from SkinScope and ModiFace’s Derm Skin analyzer, on-site diagnostic tools assess specific needs. “The biggest technology benefit is to help demystify skin care and ingredients, making it easier for consumers,” Harrison said.
In recent years, CVS also removed “chemicals of concern” from more than 600 proprietary HBC products under its paparazzi, Goodline and GSQ by Glamsquad labels, Harrison said. Lines encompass skin care, nail care and men’s grooming. And in 2020, it removed oxybenzone and octinoxate from about 60 store brand sunscreens. “Consumers are smarter about what they’re looking for,” she added. “Needs and expectations have shifted toward cleaner, more environmentally friendly offerings more than ever.”
support, advocate and help certify these types of companies. It is also “working hard” to launch hair and skin care brands for different skin types and hair textures. “We want shelves to reflect consumers who shop them, creating a sense of belonging,” Hughes added.
Personalization is evident in Walgreens’ proprietary brands. In skin care, its peel-off face masks come in 10 varieties, including charcoal and cucumber. “Walgreens owned brands play a critical role in our goal to drive personalization that is high-quality, affordable and convenient,” Hughes said. It uses data from myWalgreens, its 102-million-member loyalty program, to better identify shoppers’ needs. “There’s various factors we look at that are everchanging to deliver the best experience,” Hughes added.
Walgreens’ professionally trained, in-store beauty consultants address people’s needs, suggesting ethnic items and OTC products for skin conditions. They even work with pharmacists to recommend products that alleviate skin and hair changes resulting from cancer and other drug treatments. “They’re trained to ensure each customer has solutions that meet their needs,” Hughes said.
Andrew Csicsila, Alix Partners
Heather Hughes, group vice president of beauty, personal care & seasonal, Walgreens, also cited growing demand for vegan and cruelty-free items, recycled packaged and reusable products. “While sustainability took a brief step down during the pandemic’s height, it’s now further in the forefront of consumers’ minds. Brands must work hard to deliver efficiency and do good.”
Shelf Life, Walgreens’ year-old video series, features small, diverse suppliers such as Monique Rodriguez, founder/ owner of Mielle Organics. Walgreens works with affiliate organizations that
Rite Aid’s efforts at being more on-trend have involved rolling out Store of the Future in 2020. The spa-like destination offers updated beauty products. Many are natural and chemical free. Beauty “ambassadors” help shoppers find solutions. And in 2018, it introduced indie brand Kokie Cosmetics to 2,300 stores. The affordably priced line includes about 200 cruelty-free items whose ingredients follow popular Korean makeup trends.
To become more competitive in beauty, drug stores do not necessarily have to emulate other channels. But they must find ways to better serve a generation that gets its cues from grass roots advisors and not high-ticket fashion magazine ads and supermodels. “It’s about rebalancing space and thinking of the functional benefits this group wants and shifting some aisles toward that,” Schilling said. dsn
Drug stores are more followers than leaders, not the tip of the spear for entrepreneurs.
Technology TakeoverBy Kathie Canning
Those years have been “transformative,” taking the retail pharmacy sector beyond its traditional role of medicine dispenser, said David Pope, chief pharmacy officer for Dallasbased OmniSYS.
“Pharmacists and pharmacies are becoming the chosen source of urgent and primary care for patients,” he said. “The reasons beyond the shift vary, from consumer convenience to ease of healthcare access.”
Danny Sanchez, senior vice president and general manager for EnlivenHealth — the retail pharmacy solutions division of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Omnicell — noted that retail pharmacy also is facing significant challenges. Those range from declining reimbursements and inefficient pharmacy workflows to staffing shortages and antiquated billing systems.
“While COVID-19 intensified these pharmacy challenges, it also had the effect of accelerating
major shifts in healthcare delivery, putting a greater focus on the highly accessible and trusted community pharmacy sector to deliver clinical services such as vaccinations and testing,” he said.
Retail pharmacy has made some progress in technology adoption. Pope said, for example, that billing-enabled electronic health records and other technology solutions have helped with the transformation of the last few years. Many retail pharmacies have recently invested in other technologies, too.
“I think technology has really earned its place in two spaces: central fill for pharmacy groups who have seen the efficiencies and benefits of ‘production’ centers, and in larger, high-volume retail pharmacies, where they have implemented pill-counting technologies,” said John Webster, vice president, innovation and
“Don’t wait to execute, and don’t wait to implement a tech stack that supports your efforts.”
— David Pope, chief pharmacy officer, OmniSYS
product development for Crocus Medical, Saint Paul, Minn. “Independents have been slower to move toward automation, which is unfortunate because the key element to a successful independent pharmacy is strong relationships with the customers, but they are so busy ‘dispensing,’ they don’t have time to interact with their clients.”
Melanie Christie, vice president of product management for Columbus, Ohio-based CoverMyMeds, agreed that central fill technology has become more commonplace as consumers turn to retail drug stores for high-value, patientfocused care.
“Central fill technology, such as dispensing operations that are largely driven by robotics, is a lever they can pull to benefit from faster, cheaper and more accurate fills,” she said.
Using automation tools, pharmacists are able to save 45-plus minutes per 100 prescriptions filled over count-and-pour efforts, Christie noted, citing research published in the Journal of American Pharmacists Association. Central fill technology can allow more efficient directto-patient delivery, too.
Technology also came into play during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many retail drug stores were able to make “on-the-fly” configurations to adjudication networks to accommodate billing complexities tied to vaccines, noted Kristina Crockett, vice president of project management for CoverMyMeds.
“Considering that 44% of all COVID19 vaccines in the United States were administered at retail pharmacies, these edits allowed pharmacies to play a critical role on the front lines by helping to reduce the manual effort and time associated with processing a claim,” she said. “As a result, pharmacists have more time to provide patient care.”
Time To ‘Think Bigger’
It’s clear that retail pharmacies have made progress on the technology front. However, many challenges that could be addressed via technology remain.
Retail pharmacies must now think bigger, Pope said, if they are to truly deal with the transformation they’ve undergone in the past few years.
“The technological resources required for retail pharmacy to fully operationalize this transformation go far beyond most of what retail pharmacy operates today,” he noted. “Success looks like purpose-built pharmacy-first solutions, interoperability with disparate data sources, technologyfacilitated new-provider relationships and, above all, in-pharmacist workflow.”
Technology and automation advances are already helping pharmacies and pharmacists offer more clinical services and better customer care, added Kevin Barton, vice president of product strategy, healthcare intelligence and analytics for Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Inmar.
“Leveraging new technologies and automation will further the progress the profession has made in displaying that pharmacies can do more to better the health
and well-being of customers,” he said.
The tide does appear to be turning. Case in point: Philadelphia-based drug store chain Rite Aid and Google Cloud recently entered into a multi-year technology partnership. Under the partnership, Google Cloud technologies will provide Rite Aid with better insights, increased agility and improved customer experiences, the companies note.
Modernized applications for personalized digital experiences will enable pharmacists to spend more time directly engaging with customers. Rite Aid will be migrating key applications to Google Cloud’s Anthos, a managed platform for application deployment, the companies said.
Embrace New Technology
Outside of such partnerships, retail pharmacies could look to a number of new and emerging technologies to gain an edge over the competition.
Some of these technologies could help
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Over the coming years, more retailers will adopt automation tech to gain an advantage.
On the horizon for inventory management, meanwhile, are solutions that assist the process from the point of purchase through destruction, Barton noted.
retail pharmacies manage two “big events” that will be coming their way during the next 15 months, noted Chris Smith, director of product strategy for Inmar. First to come will be full-scale implementation of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), followed by the change of direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) to point of sale (POS).
“Supply chain solutions for both forward and reverse logistics are emerging as stakeholders across the channel have recognized the need to democratize the supply chain data to fulfill the requirements of the DSCSA,” he said. “The impact of the DIR shift to point of sale means that pharmacy teams and their finance and accounting partners need to be in sync. From forecasting the shift to POS to understanding the actual adjudication — plus any Effective Rate true-ups down the road — [it] will require the right data and communication.”
Speaking of data, more pharmacies are relying on it to improve inventory management and product flow through the pharmacy, Barton noted. But it can be challenging to identify inventory that needs to be returned. So there’s plenty of room to build on these efforts.
“Utilizing policy data and analytics, pharmacies can ensure they are optimizing revenue from returnable inventory by ensuring the returnable products fall within the guidelines of these different manufacturer policies,” he said. “Financials can be significantly improved by assessing a pharmacy’s current inventory and what needs to be returned. Applying inventory purchasing and dispensing data to return policy rule-engines and machine learning can ensure a pharmacy is getting as much credit for their returned product as possible.”
“There is a significant opportunity to tie all of the data together to build algorithms that will reduce labor costs spent on inventory and allow this time to be allocated to focus more on the customer,” he said. “We should see these solutions become more widely available as they align with concepts that are shared by serialization and DSCSA requirements that are due to be implemented by November of 2023.”
Advances in central-fill operations also stand to benefit retail pharmacies. For example, retail pharmacies could take advantage of specialty-medication centralfill capabilities to broaden their patient offerings, Christie said.
“Today, such technology now includes the ability to dispense specialty medications, which typically come with a higher cost to dispense,” she explains. “Advancements to central-fill operations can also accommodate cold chain medicines.”
And technology now exists for retail pharmacies having difficulty dealing with the “disparate, disconnected technology platforms” needed for deploying patient
“Central fill technology, such as dispensing operations that are largely driven by robotics, is a lever they can pull to benefit from faster, cheaper and more accurate fills.”
— Melanie Christie, vice president of product management, CoverMyMeds
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engagement, financial and clinical management technologies, Sanchez noted. The new Enliven360 solution allows retail pharmacies to better engage patients, automate workflows, increase clinical services and enhance financial results. It’s fully integrated with the industry’s leading pharmacy management systems.
Another new EnlivenHealth technology, Personalized Interactive Voice Response, helps to address staffing shortages by decreasing administrative tasks and allowing pharmacists to focus on “patientcentric care,” Sanchez said. The cloudbased voice technology authenticates callers and then offers automated assistance. A community pharmacy in the Midwest slashed its phone transfer rates by almost 20% after adopting the new technology.
For its part, Surescripts introduced Clinical Direct Messaging to improve the communication between providers, said Lawrence King, director of product safety and performance for the Arlington, Va.based company. The tool offers secure, EHR-integrated delivery of clinical communications and health information exchange, for improved care coordination and workflow efficiency.
And the Surescripts Network Alliance — technically not new, but always innovating — can help on the data management side, he noted. It currently links 2 million healthcare professionals and organizations across the United States.
“Practitioners are being hit from every direction with data, trying to organize and coordinate it all,” King said. “In an age of rampant burnout, SureScripts Network Alliance is working to improve interoperability — delivering the right information providers need at the right time to work with patients to make the right decision — ensuring the entire patient encounter is not spent clicking through different screens to find the insights needed.”
Speaking of data management, King noted that his company’s RealTime Prescription Benefit and Specialty Medications Gateway now enable criticalinformation transfer to pharmacies. The
prescription benefit helps pharmacies “solve for affordability and adherence upfront” via delivery of patient benefit information such as prior authorization flags and therapeutic alternatives. The gateway, meanwhile, simplifies the complex manual specialty enrollment process, slashing administrative burdens and streamlining provider-toprovider communications.
Consider Automation Advances
Automation advances outside of centralfill operations also spell opportunity for retail pharmacies. Automation is no longer limited to the pill-counting systems and the like, points out Brian Sullivan, principal –pharmacy solutions, North America for Knapp, Kennesaw, Ga.
“In recent years, we have seen more use of automated storage and retrieval systems like the KNAPP-Store,” he said. “If we can automatically induct, store and dispense medications [and] OTC and will-call orders in a very dense storage space, we can now reimagine the retail space, focusing on and expanding patient care. With DSCSA requirements fast approaching, the automated induction of medications reduces technician time, as these next-gen retail systems can automatically read individual serial numbers and accompanying data via 2D bar codes — meeting the latest DSCSA validation and tracking requirements.”
Yet another automation advance expands will-call “lockers” for off-hour pickup by patients, Sullivan noted. The KNAPP-Store 24/7 solution relies on a smartphone barcode reader to pull orders and nonprescription items on demand. The solution includes meth check, telepharmacy and payment capabilities.
Webster agrees that automated willcall/Rx self-retrieval lockers represent a major innovation — and believes they should have a wider role. They speed up fulfillment, eliminate line-ups and enhance convenience, so clients actually want to go to the retail pharmacy.
“Plus, and this is a key benefit, it frees up more time at the dispensary counter for
counseling, focusing on the ‘health’ part of the customer interaction as opposed to the logistics/payment part,” he said.
New automation solutions can advance retail pharmacy efforts to help patients navigate affordability challenges, too, Crockett said. More than half of pharmacists — 54% — say they lack time to complete their job effectively, according to CoverMyMeds’ latest Medical Access Report.
“We’re beginning to see emerging technology that can help patients and pharmacists alike by automating the repetitive manual process of searching for and comparing various affordability options, including discount cards, to help patients find the best price,” she said. “Instead of pharmacists running and reversing a chain of claims using various discount cards to find the best option for patients, technology can do the heavy lifting and quickly present clear options to pharmacists and patients. As a result, more patients can leave the pharmacy with their medication at a price they can afford.”
Don’t Wait To Execute
Despite the potential benefits of new technology, implementation can be challenging. It requires a concerted effort on the part of the entire pharmacy team, noted Jason Ausili, head of pharmacy transformation for EnlivenHealth.“Getting the team’s buy-in early in the process will prepare pharmacists and technicians alike to be ready for the changes and get the most out of them,” he said.
And implementation worries should not be an excuse to put off new technology investments.
“Don’t wait to execute, and don’t wait to implement a tech stack that supports your efforts,” Pope said. “Payers are buying into pharmacists as providers, into retail pharmacy as the front door of health care. The time to get your technology platforms in place is now.” dsn
Take a Deep Breath
Cough, Cold, Flu and Allergy products see gains as consumers endure the tripledemicBy Nora Caley
This cough, cold and flu season, and later the allergy season, will be different from previous seasons. As the tripledemic of viral infections — Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), influenza and COVID-19 — took hold even before winter began, consumers went online and into stores to seek advice and relief.
Manufacturers say that while COVID-19 made people think about proactive self-care, many were unable to avoid getting sick. So even as inflation is making consumers rethink their budgets, people are still looking for products that offer fast relief, provide multiple benefits and are easy to take.
“The cough, cold, flu and allergy category continue to see solid growth,” said Sameer Rabbani, vice president of marketing, respiratory, for Haleon USA in Warren, N.J. “Overall, it has been a very dynamic year for the category.”
In the first half of this year, Rabbani said, cough and cold product sales increased as consumers took medications to treat symptoms of the
omicron variant of COVID-19. In the second half of the year, Haleon saw the impact of a severe flu season. “We expect this to continue but anticipate a higher spike than we have seen in the past few months in COVID infections, notwithstanding any new variants, in combination with both adult and pediatric RSV infections,” he said.
In its Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that as of Nov. 18, 2022, there had been at least 6.2 million illnesses, 53,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths from flu for the 2022-23 season. Nationally, the percentage of specimens testing positive for influenza in clinical laboratories had increased.
“The cold and flu season has started early this year along with the resurgence of COVID,” said MaryEllen Tefft, vice president of sales, FDM, for Newtown Square, Pa.-based Boiron
“It appears Americans are not afraid anymore. They kind of accepted that various illnesses will be with us.”
— Art Rowe-Cerveny, executive vice president of marketing, Americas, PharmaCare US
USA. “The flu season started in November when normally it starts much later in the winter months.”
The CDC reported there were 305,082 flu cases the week ending Nov. 23, 2022. That’s lower than the 669,179 for the week ending Nov. 24, 2021. RSV is also surging. The CDC reported that each year, RSV leads to approximately 58,000 to 80,000 hospitalizations among children younger than 5 years old, and 60,000 to 120,000 hospitalizations among adults 65 years and older. That number might increase this season, as more people are getting sick with the virus. For the week ending Nov. 26, 2022 more than 12% of PCR tests were positive for RSV, compared with around 7% the same week in November 2021.
Consumers are responding by seeking products with pure active ingredients, Tefft said, and Boiron’s Oscillococcinum, ColdCalm, ThroatCalm, SinusCalm and Chestal cough syrup all saw high double- and triple-digit growth. “They are discovering and enjoying the benefits of more holistic products, especially homeopathic ones, which is continuing to grow as a category,” he said.
Certain shoppers are especially interested in natural products. “Natural OTC medications are more appealing to millennial parents to treat less serious cough and cold symptoms for their children,” said Angela Ho, director of brand marketing for Orchard Park, N.Y.-based Mentholatum. There has been a shift to topical cough and cold products, and that market continues to grow. In general, consumers of all ages are seeking fast relief, Ho said, and it is critical for manufacturers and retailers to maintain availability throughout the season.
One trend affecting the category is that people are hesitating to get vaccinated against the flu. According to an August 2022 survey by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, 69% of respondents agreed that annual flu vaccination is the best preventive measure against flu-related deaths and hospitalizations, but only 49% planned to get a flu vaccine during the 2022-2023 flu season.
Vaccinated or not, consumers are seeking products that they hope will prevent illness, and for products that can offer relief when they do get sick. “People learned about prevention, but people are getting colds and flu,” said Jason Pellegrini, president
Each year in the U.S., RSV leads to approximately hospitalizations among children younger than 5 years old.
58,000 to 80,000
and CEO of Quantum Health. “They are buying both sides of what used to be two distinct segments.”
Eugene, Ore.-based Quantum Health offers natural products in immune support supplements, cold sore medicine and treatments, and other categories. Pellegrini predicts the cold and flu season will see a late spike in illnesses as people travel and get together for holidays. “Our immune systems got weaker from wearing masks and not being around people,” he said. “Before, people thought a cold was no big deal, and now people know colds aren’t something to be trifled with.”
One way to predict the flu season is to look at the southern hemisphere as winter ends there. “It remains to be seen, but the flu that came out of Australia is the most virulent they’ve had in decades,” said Art Rowe-Cerveny, executive vice president of marketing, Americas, for PharmaCare US. “We generally follow what happened there.”
Perhaps counterintuitively, consumers don’t seem worried. During the fall the public was inundated with election news, not health news, so they might not be thinking about health issues. Also, Rowe-Cerveny said, people’s attitudes have changed after two years of COVID19 protocols. “It appears Americans are not afraid anymore,” he said. “They kind of accepted that various illnesses will be with us.”
That acceptance means consumers are shopping for immunity-related products as well as products they hope will bring immediate relief. That has boosted sales of tried and true OTC cough/cold remedies, Rowe-Cerveny said, while the immunity side has seen a smaller lift in sales. “We make sure people understand our products can be used for both,” he said. San Diegobased PharmaCare US makes the Sambucol Black Elderberry line of products.
A pent-up demand for togetherness is driving an increase in respiratory ailments. “As consumers are moving forward with their lives post COVID, there is more of an openness to socialize and return to
Top Performers: Cough, Cold & Allergy
100% Natural Free to Breathe1.82 oz. Large Tin
Green Goo’s Free to Breathe allnatural decongestant provides soothing relief for congestion, allergies and cold and flu symptoms. Enriched with essential oils of eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint and rosemary, the salve is produced using a lipid infusion process, maximizing the potency and purity of its botanical ingredients to help you recover faster. The brand also offers a 0.6 oz. Jumbo Stick with an SRP of $9.99, 0.7 oz. Small Tin for $10.99 and a 4 oz. Jar for $32.99.
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ManukaGuard’s natural, safe and effective alternative to conventional cough and throat syrups uses medical grade mānuka honey and apple cider vinegar to naturally provide immune support. ManukaGuard’s mānuka honey is sourced from New Zealand and meets the internationally recognized standard of purity. Recommended use for best results is to begin taking the Cough & Throat Syrup at the first sign of a dry throat or cough.
Warm Apple Pie Throat Drops (Bag of 30 Drops)
Is there anything better than a slice of warm apple pie? This classic combination of apple and cinnamon, along with the active ingredient pectin, provides relief for sore throats. Smith Brothers’ Warm Apple Pie Throat Drops provide a menthol-free subtle warming sensation to soothe even the sorest of throats. William and Andrew Smith started making their cough drops 175 years ago, and to this day, Smith Brothers continues to be one of the world’s most beloved cough remedies.
Methodology: The products selected are RangeMe Verified™ brands that received the highest positive buyer interaction scores within the Cough, Cold & Allergy category – a score that represents a combination of buyer views, messages, saves, sample requests and purchases of the product. The RangeMe verification process confirms that brands and products meet certain standards and requirements that RangeMe’s retail partners look for before doing business with a brand.
normal activities,” said Joe Juliano, vice president of sales and marketing for Applied Biological Laboratories. “As a result, cough/cold incidence is expected to rise this season.”
Juliano also said the natural solutions trend continues to grow in the cough/cold and allergy category. The company launched Biovanta Dual Action Spray and Lozenges, and plans to launch Biovanta Immunity in 2023.
Sales of nondrug natural products are also increasing in the nasal spray segment. “People are looking for something outside of the pharmaceutical realm,” said Nathan Jones, founder and owner of Xlear. “People are looking for other solutions.” American Fork, Utah-based Xlear makes sinus care products such as nasal sprays that contain xylitol.
As with many other categories, consumers are searching online for information about cough, cold, flu and allergy remedies. Manufacturers are responding by offering educational content, such as Xlear’s website with information about studies indicating nasal spray with xylitol can help block adhesion of bacteria to epithelial cells. “People are going into the drug store or pharmacy more educated now about what they’re looking for than they were in the past,” Jones said.
Xlear launched a campaign that focuses on the science of proactive health and the importance of maintaining nasal hygiene, because viruses and bacteria enter the body through the nose. “We’re the only ones talking about nasal hygiene,” Jones said. “I think that’s going to change.”
Having a digital presence can help drive sales in the category. Applied Biological Laboratories invests in search, social, influencer and geo-marketing to drive consumers to retailer partners. “Additionally, we invest in RM to not only build a relationship with our consumers but also to direct them to where to buy Biovanta,” Juliano said.
While it’s difficult to predict how the rest of the cold and flu season will fare, allergy season is coming soon. An innovation from Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health helps make it easy for consumers to take allergy medication. Zyrtec Allergy Dye-Free Chewables do not need water. “We know consumers are more apt to stay on top of their necessary medications the easier they are to take,” said Adam Ricciardone, vice president of global self care, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health. “Our goal is to help consumers manage their health in the most convenient ways possible.”
“The cold and flu season has started early this year, along with the resurgence of COVID.”
— MaryEllen Tefft, vice president of sales, FDM, Boiron USA
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REX Awards 2023 – Natural Products
Legacy brands and newcomers appeal to consumers’ desire for natural health options
This year’s winners of the REX Awards – Natural Products pay homage to legacy brands that have been mainstays in the drug store channel’s natural section as well as new brands that have created a name for themselves.
Drug Store News’ REX Awards honor those manufacturers who have made a difference in their respective industries, be it with innovative products, promotions or merchandising. These are companies that have gone above and beyond, assisting their retail partners as they seek to create a point of differentiation between themselves and other merchants.
Marie Originals offers a wide array of natural health and skin care remedies that sell under the ear care, first aid, skin and healthcare categories.
Early on, the Pearl River, N.Y.-based company identified the ear care category as one that has long been lacking innovation. Marie Original’s top-selling Ear Oil has transformed the ear care options that are available in pharmacy assortments. With the recent FDA approval of OTC hearing aids, the company looks forward to continuing to be a driver in the innovation that lies ahead for the ear care category.
A recent problem the company has been working to solve is one that historically crippled even the toughest outdoorist: poison ivy. Maria Originals is creating a poison ivy and oak soap that offers a proactive
solution prior to the reaction. It’s targeted at tradespeople, wildland firefighters, rescue teams, farmers and other people who operate in areas infested with poisonous plants.
The company is also focusing on its Wounds and Burns Ointment, which helps speed up the healing process of cuts, burns, diaper rash, cellulitis and other skin afflictions. “We want to highlight the Wounds and Burns Ointment because of its unique ability to aid in a healing process which was typically left to the body to fend for itself,” said Bojana Dackovic, marketing director of Marie Originals.
The Relief Products
Reno, Nev.-based The Relief Products has been offering homeopathic options for the past 36 years, developing more than 30 remedies that harness the healing power of nature to ease symptoms. A majority of the company’s products are concentrated in
the eye and ear care categories, with additional remedies for cough and cold, digestive health and pain management.
“In 2022, TRP unveiled Natural Eyes as a ‘natural’ fit in the marketplace, where we recognized a growing need for clearly labeled, natural products to provide safe and effective eye care solutions,” said Susan Hanson, TRP COO.
As the entire OTC market continues its shift toward natural, TRP has established itself as a frontrunner in the eye care category, using 100% natural active ingredients that are contact lens safe, suitable for adults and children and have no known side effects or drug interactions.
The company will continue to focus on the natural OTC eye care products in 2023 with its latest product development, Natural Eyes Dryness Relief, which provides a natural solution for one of the most common eye conditions experienced by
consumers, especially those who are middle-aged or older.
In addition, TRP’s Natural Ears offerings will be formally introduced into the marketplace in 2023.
Renton, Wash.-based Epion Brands is the maker of Kori Pure Antarctic Krill Oil – an omega-3 supplement sustainably sourced from Atlantic krill. More than 70% of Americans are deficient in omega-3s, an essential nutrient our bodies need but can’t make on its own, so the company has led the charge to create awareness and excitement around the category to galvanize Americans into action to incorporate more omega-3s into their health regimen.
Krill naturally contains more nutrients like choline, which supports brain and nervous system health, and the antioxidant astaxanthin. Kori Krill Oil also delivers omega-3s in their most natural phospholipid form, resulting in superior absorption without the fishy aftertaste.
In 2022, the company launched two products: Kori Mind & Body and Kori Krill Oil Gummies. Mind & Body combines the benefits of krill oil with clinically tested ingredients like lutein and zeaxanthin to create a unique supplement that provides added brain support on top of the whole-body benefits already offered from krill oil. Kori Krill Oil Gummies is the first brand to deliver the powerful health benefits of krill oil in a gummy format in a natural mixed citrus flavor.
Lifelab Health, based in Coconut Creek, Fla., was the first to formulate a dye- and sugar-free liquid gas relief product and was among the first to launch a black elderberry-based product intended to help boost immune systems and reduce the duration of cold and flu symptoms.
Immunity products were a focus for the company in 2022. As people return to social events after the pandemic isolation, the increased interaction is resulting in a record cough cold season. Lifelab Health continued to innovate in the cough cold category, introducing HoneyWorks Dark honey cough syrup for adults. This is the first HoneyWorks SKU containing an active ingredient for those adults who want all the goodness of organic honey for their cough relief, supplemented with Dextromethorphan HBR, a cough suppressant.
Lifelab Health also has introduced a HoneyWorks USDA Organic-certified metered dose adult throat pump spray, which contains USDA certified dark honey and zinc, for relief of sore throats and hoarseness, and also helps with immune support.
When you think of fish oil, you think of Nordic Naturals. Or at least you should. The company boasts the No. 1 fish oil brand in the U.S., according to sales data from Clearcut Analytics and SPINS.
But Watsonville, Calif.-based Nordic Naturals offers more than 200 products across 35 global markets, including omegas, probiotics, vitamins and minerals, and benefit-specific nutrients, such as stress, sleep and joint relief products.
“Our exceptionally fresh, pure and effective ingredients distinguish our brand as a trusted leader in the supplement industry,” said brand manager Anna Mein.
The company, which has been a leader in the supplement space for more than 25 years, will focus on the consumer-pleasing delivery format of gummies in 2023. The Magnesium gummies feature
300 mg of magnesium citrate with 2 g of sugar to provide support for a relaxed mind and body. The Nordic Immune Gummies include all-star ingredients zinc (8 mg), elderberry (150 mg), vitamin C (90 mg) and vitamin D3 (50 mcg). And the newest member of the Ultimate Omega family is the Ultimate Omega Gummy Chews, with 1,200 mg omega-3s per serving, zero sugar and no fishy aftertaste.
Mason Vitamins offers a variety of branded and private-label products ranging from A to Z vitamins to minerals, and specialty categories with a selection of more than 350plus supplements. The Hialeah-Fla.-based company uses shopper insights and research for supplement trends and subcategories that are forecasted to grow. Its UL-certified manufacturing facility follows dietary supplement Good Manufacturing Practices, and each product is produced following FDA guidelines.
Products that were launched in 2022 include delivery forms like stick packs, effervescent tablets and liquids, along with products with trending ingredients such as Mushroom Power, Quercetin Complex and Turmeric with Bioperine. Additionally, the company launched a new convenience product line, Wellness-To-Go, for the convenience-store channel.
In 2023, Mason Vitamins will introduce more disease-state products with new Renal
and Nerve supplements. The company also plans to enter the pet supplement category.
Los Angeles-based Liquid I.V. has made a name for itself in the electrolyte category with its ubiquitous drink mixes. The product portfolio continues to expand and now makes up five categories, all utilizing Cellular Transport Technology to enhance rapid absorption of water and other key ingredients into the bloodstream.
In 2022, Liquid I.V. launched two key products. The Hydration Multiplier + Probiotic Kombucha blends, Liquid I.V.’s signature CTT-powered hydration with 1 billion CFU of Probiotic BC30 and Double Fermented Tea Vinegar Powder. The Energy Multiplier in the Yuzu Pineapple flavor features a blend of Coffeeberry Energy Extract, CognatIQ Coffee Fruit Extract and L-Theanine for physical energy and a cognitive boost. The Yuzu Pineapple flavor differentiates itself from the Energy Multiplier Lemon Ginger flavor due to its cognitive effects.
The Seaberry flavor of Hydration Multiplier will launch in February 2023 as a permanent flavor. The original limited-time offer launched in 2020 after the Liquid I.V. team traveled to Nepal and experienced the popular wild seaberry fruit.
Pharmavite — makers of the Nature Made brand — produces a range of USP-verified
vitamins and supplements. In addition, Pharmavite offers MegaFood, a premium vitamin and supplement product, and Equelle and Uqora, which underscore the company’s deep focus on women’s health.
In 2022, West Hills, Calif.-based Pharmavite launched Nature Made Wellblends, a complete line of blends that target the important consumer need states of sleep, stress and immune health. The launch was supported by a marketing and public relations campaign in partnership with the Netflix show, “The Home Edit.”
As the company moves into 2023 it will lean on key areas including driving core segments, such as vitamin D, vitamin B12 and magnesium. Pharmavite also plans to offer further innovation in its mental wellness portfolio to address stress and cognition needs. The year will also see an expansion of the Wellblends portfolio and an expansion of multivitamin offerings.
Windmill Health Products
Celebrating 50 years of business, West Caldwell, N.J.-based Windmill Health Products sells products under numerous global brands, serving major categories including weight loss, sports nutrition, specialty beverages, functional foods, medical foods, whole food supplements and more.
In 2022, the company expanded its Keto Science line with a Keto Burn gummy. It also launched Country Farms Fiber Care gummies as part of a national brand that has been in retail for more than 20 years.
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growing opportunities for our women’s specific lifestyle brand that launched in June, called Her Own,” said Keith Frankel, CEO of Windmill Health Products. This targeted line of natural and organic nutrition is available at leading retailers nationwide.
In the new year, the company will continue its roll out of Keto Science’s new Vegan Keto Shakes, along with its Country Farms Fruit and Vegetable supplement, a product category it first developed in 1992 with Super Juice. In addition, Windmill Health Products will be highlighting the national launch of the natural sleep aid Relaxium.
Frisco, Texas-based UI Global is the maker of Urban Hydration, a clean beauty lifestyle brand created with the purpose of providing premium quality, ultra-hydrating products as an alternative to pricier prescribed clinical care.
Philanthropy is at the company’s core, and 2022 saw the launch of products with the BEKIND. By Ellen campaign to raise $30,000 to build a new clean drinking well in 2023. The company also partnered with the “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” film to create an exclusive clean beauty collection that utilizes clean ingredients and also honors the legacy of the late Whitney Houston.
In 2023, Urban Hydration will be highlighting its Clean Beauty Sugar Scrub, Body Oil and Bubble Bath collection available at Target.
For more than 40 years, Highlands Ranch, Colo.-based Similasan has been making a wide range of options that provide temporary
symptomatic relief for ear, nose and chest ailments.
As consumers are prioritizing self-care now more than ever, the homeopathic brand — probably best known for its eye care products — is addressing the concerns of some about the use of harsh chemicals in personal care products such as eye drops.
New products such as Similasan Dry Eye Nighttime Gel, launched in 2022, work toward the goal of providing shoppers with alternative choices as they shop the eye care shelf. In 2023, the company will focus on three products: Allergy Eye Relief, Pink Eye Relief and Earache Relief.
In 1930, Edward Bach began to manufacture and stock his Bach Original Flower Remedies, made from the flowers in his own English garden to promote emotional well-being. Today, the portfolio has grown to include a full range of products, for people and pets, to help with stressful days and sleepless nights.
“Our core Bach and Rescue product lines are more relevant than ever — especially after the COVID pandemic — but we are certainly not resting on our laurels,” said Kim Knoblauch, Nelsons Americas marketing director. “We are continuously exploring new formats, such as gummies, creams, pastilles and others, as well as ingredients that provide desired enhancements to our formulas for helping consumers balance their emotional well-being and tackle specific challenges that we all face with stress and sleep.”
In 2023, the company is launching a duo of gummies under the Rescue Plus label: Rescue Plus Mood & Stress Support gummy for daytime and Rescue Plus Sleep & Stress Support for night-time. dsn
Five Retail Imperatives for the New Year
Success will rely on meeting the changing needs of shoppers, employees and communitiesBy David Orgel
Retailers will face considerable hurdles in 2023, but they can ease the challenges by thinking strategically about the needs of shoppers, employees and communities.
These needs are changing, and retailers have an opportunity to bring innovative new solutions. Let’s take a look at five 2023 imperatives to see how this can play out.
1. Accelerate Customer Experience: Retailers should prioritize customer experience in 2023. This aspect wasn’t necessarily top of mind during the height of the pandemic, in the face of enormous hurdles. But now it’s essential to customers and is more measurable than ever. The 2022 American Innovation Index identified retailer innovation leaders based on customers’ experiences. Top supermarkets cited included Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market and Publix Super Markets. Drug store leaders included CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid. The index is driven by Fordham University and market research firm Rockbridge Associates. A key point of the index is that consumers expect more than just satisfactory experiences. Retailers can drive further progress in 2023 by making offerings and experiences more consistent across omnichannel, pursuing innovative loyalty programs and offering entertaining in-store experiences.
2. Boost Employee Retention: The retail trade industry is trailing most other sectors when it comes to employee retention. That finding is based on a 2022 study from SmallPDF that analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine “quit rates’’ and “quit levels.” Retail trade jobs include those such as cashiers, customer service representatives and stock clerks. Retailers including supermarkets and drug stores have an opportunity to improve retention in 2023 by fine-tuning their strategies in areas such as compensation and benefits, training and development, and scheduling flexibility.
3. Understand Younger Consumers: Gen Z consumers are increasingly crucial for retailers, who need to understand the preferences and
David Orgel is an award-winning business journalist, industry expert and speaker. He is the principal of David Orgel Consulting.
behaviors of these younger shoppers. A 2022 survey of U.S. shoppers under 25 found that 80% expected to use social media to locate holiday gifts and 41% anticipated using it for most or all of their holiday shopping. The research was conducted by social commerce company SimplicityDX. Retailers need to delve deep into these kinds of shopper insights to better understand younger customers and bring new and relevant approaches. Not all of the research insights will apply to supermarket and drug store retailers, but much of it will.
4. Get Innovative about Shopper Savings: Inflation isn’t disappearing anytime soon and there are lots of concerns about the state of the economy. Retailers need to find innovative ways to help shoppers save money in order to improve loyalty and engagement. Kroger set a creative example during the Thanksgiving season by unveiling a “zero-compromise shopping guide with meal options that can feed 10 people for as little as $5 per person.” It also opted to avoid shifting the rising cost of turkeys onto customers. Shoppers appreciate these kinds of unique strategies. However, they want savings all year long. In 2023 retailers can increase loyalty by offering new and creative ways to save throughout the year.
5. Prioritize Access and Equity: Local communities increasingly expect retailers to support access and equity, in aspects ranging from housing to food insecurity. Retailers are stepping up. As a case in point, CVS made big investments in 2022 to help build affordable housing in communities such as Bel Aire, Kan., and Seattle. Retailers, in fact, have expanded the definition of what it means to support communities. Those making commitments and executing well will differentiate their businesses. In the future these kinds of commitments will be more and more expected by communities.
The five retail imperatives outlined here will be crucial in 2023. Retailers that ace these aspects will be ahead of the game in satisfying shoppers, employees and communities, regardless of what the new year brings. dsn
“In 2023 retailers can increase loyalty by offering new and creative ways to save throughout the year.”
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“After going through The Compliance Team’s accreditation process, we’re not only a better business, we’re a better pharmacy.”
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Beneﬁts of accreditation/certiﬁcation: • Identify gaps in operations/service • Identify opportunities for improvement • Ensure consistency of processes • Improve patient outcomes • Enhance business practices
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