Written by Richard Marcil on September 18, 2014
in Healthcare Marketing

On a recent trip to the US, I read a good article from MM&M titled Changes at your local pharmacy: lessons in bold leadership.

The piece is spot on for two reasons: (1) it is a true secular change in the business of pharmacy; and (2) change is clearly afoot in pharmacies north and south of the border.

Marketers need to pay attention to both of these. Investopedia describes secular change as “taking place over a long-term time frame, usually at least 10 years. It is important for investors to identify secular trends in markets, not just short-term trends, if they want to succeed”.

There’s no doubt that the underlying source of this change is an overburdened healthcare system and burgeoning provincial budget deficits. The Ontario Government certainly kicked the proverbial can when it cut generic drug payments to pharmacies in 2010. But pharmacy chains also fueled change by themselves, banning the sales of cigarettes as early as 2011, and meaningfully evolving their product/service mix. In short, pharmacy is pivoting.

The opportunity waits in plain sight at local pharmacies in the US, with banners like Walgreens and CVS leading the charge. CVS has some 650 health clinics while Walgreens has 370+. Walgreens also made an aggressive move last April, expanding its Take Care retail clinic’s services to include diagnosing and treating chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, and cholesterol.

This should leave marketers both excited and worried. Excited because a new world of PatientConsumer™ engagement opportunity awaits as primary care access continues to decrease. Excited because scope of practice changes at pharmacy may allow us to also drive PatientConsumer™ support, switching and even starts. But it should also be worrisome, especially if we’re not participating and shaping these capabilities. Pharmacy banners will invest heavily here in the years to come, with or without us.

As part of 2015 planning, most of our clients have increased their focus on pharmacy. And in some case, pharmacy chains like SDM, Loblaws, London Drugs and PJC have demanded it. Question is, are you successfully positioned to capitalize on the opportunity? Do you know the key players at these chains? Are you coordinating pharmacy efforts with your sales team?

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