RX NEWS WATCH: PRESCRIPTION SALES ROSE IN 2004, FMI REPORTS...DRUG IMPORT THREAT UNDERESTIMATED

PRESCRIPTION SALES ROSE IN 2004, FMI REPORTSermarkets continued their upward climb in 2004, according to preliminary results from the 2005 Supermarket Pharmacy Trends Survey released last month by the Food Marketing Institute, Washington. Meanwhile, margins held steady. The results were released during the FMI Supermarket Pharmacy Conference here. The median of the average weekly prescription sales

PRESCRIPTION SALES ROSE IN 2004, FMI REPORTS

ermarkets continued their upward climb in 2004, according to preliminary results from the 2005 Supermarket Pharmacy Trends Survey released last month by the Food Marketing Institute, Washington. Meanwhile, margins held steady. The results were released during the FMI Supermarket Pharmacy Conference here. The median of the average weekly prescription sales per store rose from $40,825 in 2003 to $47,800 in 2004; the median of the average gross margin for the pharmacy department increased slightly from 19% in 2003 to 20% in 2004, while the median of the average gross margin for third-party sales stayed the same at 17% for the two years. "The sales numbers are healthy and they continue to rise," said Anastasia Jafari, research manager, FMI. "Despite the challenges that supermarket pharmacy is facing, they are finding the opportunity to profit." In spite of the rise of third-party payments, "as far as sales go, [supermarket pharmacies] are still finding ways to succeed," added Laurie Gethin, senior manager, pharmacy services, FMI.

DRUG IMPORT THREAT UNDERESTIMATED

NEW ORLEANS -- The scope of the threat posed by drug importation issue is greatly underestimated, according to a speaker at the recent Supermarket Pharmacy Conference of the Food Marketing Institute, Washington. "It's a very complicated issue," said Marv Shepherd, professor and director of the Center for Pharmacoeconomic Studies, University of Texas at Austin. Drug importation involves more than brand name drugs coming from Canadian pharmacies. Many Internet sites identified as Canadian are based elsewhere, he noted. It's common for these bogus Web sites to not be staffed by pharmacists and to deal in counterfeit drugs that are potentially harmful, Shepherd said. Some sites are operated by felons, criminals with links to organized crime, and drug cartels, he noted. Counterfeit drugs "are not a major health problem yet in the U.S., but they are a risk," he said.