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Hy-Vee positions itself for growth in specialty pharmacy.

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- The opening of a specialty pharmacy in Omaha highlighted the past year at Hy-Vee Inc.

The facility, Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions, has positioned the chain to capitalize on the continued growth of the specialty market, which already accounts for 15% of prescription drug sales nationwide, notes vice president of pharmacy Bob Egeland.

The retailer's stand-alone and supermarket pharmacies now send specialty scripts to Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions, which processes them and communicates with patients much like a mail-order facility, giving them the option of picking up the drugs at their local Hy-Vee or getting them by mail. And the specialty unit has the same access to medication records and patient histories as the chain's in-store pharmacies.

Egeland says it takes time to be recognized as a specialty provider, but the company has negotiated with many employer groups, insurance plans and pharmacy benefits managers for their specialty business.

Disease states covered by Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions include anemia, asthma, Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis, enzyme deficiencies, growth hormone deficiency, hemophilia, hepatitis, HIV, immune deficiency, multiple sclerosis and oncology.

Medications for these conditions are extremely expensive, Egeland says, noting that the average script goes for $2,200. In many cases patients have primary and secondary insurance -- both of which need to be billed -- and a significant co-pay.

"We have an excellent billing staff highly prepared to help patients with co-pay assistance programs," Egeland says. A retail pharmacy filling 500 scripts a day doesn't have the time or billing expertise to enroll people in such programs and follow up with manufacturers, he adds.

The debut of Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions fits in with the company's long-standing focus on health and wellness, Egeland says. That focus also accounts for the presence of dietitians in nearly all the chain's locations, including freestanding drug stores. Dietitians in many stores teach patients and caregivers about diabetes, Egeland notes.

"Dietitians can educate patients on how to use glucometers and take it a step further and discuss dietary needs," he says. "The pharmacist is probably not as highly qualified to discuss dietary needs."

And having dietitians help patients learn how to monitor and manage their blood glucose frees up pharmacists to be more available to other patients.

Hy-Vee's health and wellness orientation is also evident from the more than 100,000 flu shots it administered over the last flu season. Of the retailer's 225 pharmacies, 176 provided immunizations on a walk-in basis or at once- or twice-a-week clinics. "It basically becomes a part of the work flow," Egeland says. "Someone walks up and is interested in a flu shot. We provide forms and a clip board. In the meantime, we're working that request into the work flow with all the scripts we fill."

"It's a worthwhile service, and were expanding it," he says of immunizations. He adds that for travel vaccines the chain is setting up a drug store in Iowa City that will "essentially be a travel clinic."

Already all the stores provide the Zostavax vaccine for shingles, while some offer the pneumonia immunization and some provide Depo Provera shots.

Pharmacists and dietitians also perform many biometric screenings for employees of Hy-Vee and a number of other employer groups and third party administrators. As an offshoot, these practitioners can provide disease state management programs for workers and, in many cases, their dependents.

HY-VEE

* TOP EXECUTIVE

Ric Jurgens, chairman, president, CEO and COO

* HEADQUARTERS 5820 Westown Parkway West Des Moines, Iowa 50266

Phone: (515) 267-2800

Fax: (515) 296-2817

Website: hy-vee.com

* INDUSTRY RANK--27 in sales, 34 in stores

* Full-year results

Sales--$241.7 million (+2.6%) (1)

Net earnings--N/A

Comparable-store sales--N/A

* Number of drug stores--242

* Number of states operating--2

* Number of stores opened in 2010--0

* Number of stores closed in 2010--2

* Number of stores planned for 2011--N/A

* Average sales per store--$10.1 million *

* Average store size--14,000 sq, ft.

* Distribution- Distribution centers

* Other businesses--Grocery, retail clinics

1. CDR estimate for drug stores only. Companywide sales total over $6.9 billion.

2. Along with stand-alone drug stores, Hy+Vee operates more than 200 food/ drug combination stores in eight states.

N/A = Not available.
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Title Annotation:State of the Industry: the Chains
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Article Type:Company overview
Date:Apr 25, 2011
Words:687
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