PITTSBURGH -- As part of an expanded relationship, McKesson Corp., San Francisco, will assist Giant Eagle here in managing an automated prescription center, said to be the first of its kind, according to the companies.
The center is expected to help Giant Eagle control costs and is to eventually process half of the retailer's prescription refill volume, or 25% of its total prescription volume, said Randy Heiser, vice president, pharmacy.
"[The initiative] allows us to continue to grow the pharmacy business without putting stress on the physical plant or putting stress on our labor structure in stores," Heiser told SN.
The retailer is providing the service to customers at 102 pharmacies with high prescription volume, Heiser said. The Giant Eagle Automated Refill Center is located at the McKesson Pharmaceutical distribution center in New Castle, Pa. The venture began in 2001 and is gradually being extended through the chain. For example, last November, 15 Ohio stores added the automated refill option.
This month, Giant Eagle also named McKesson as its sole distributor of pharmaceutical products to Giant Eagle's 166 stores with pharmacies. This comes at the same time that McKesson renewed its pharmaceutical distribution agreement with Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark.
The existing relationship with McKesson was a factor in expanding the services it provides to Giant Eagle, Heiser said. "We felt there were synergies with McKesson, and they already had a distribution network in place in our stores," he said. Additionally, McKesson had the expertise to provide automated refill prescription services with its Baker APS (Automated Prescription Systems) division, he said.
Giant Eagle uses retail dispensing software and central fill software through PDX, Forth Worth, Texas, which interacts with the Baker software, he explained.
The Giant Eagle Automated Refill Center stocks about 2,000 chronic maintenance drugs on the retailer's formulary list, such as cholesterol-lowering medications and birth control drugs, Heiser said.
"It alleviates a portion of the workload," he said, since selecting, counting, pouring and bagging the prescription is handled at the distribution center. Giant Eagle has been able to "drive down the dispensing cost per prescription using this system," he added in a statement.
When customers contact the retailer for a refill in the store, over the phone, or through Giant Eagle's interactive voice response system, they are offered the option to receive the refill prescription on the following day.
If a customer agrees, the pharmacist checks to see if the desired drug is on the formulary list of the top 2,000 drugs available at the distribution center. The pharmacy can check the prescription with the patient's insurance company while software lets the pharmacist know if the drug is in stock. If all steps run smoothly, the prescription is packaged and delivered the next day to the pharmacy from which the order originated.
"Our relationship with Giant Eagle underscores the scope of McKesson's capabilities as a full-service provider," said John Figueroa, president, national accounts, McKesson Pharmaceutical.