Pharmacists Empowered at Supermarket Chains

FEBRUARY 01, 2009
Barbara Sax

Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, Rhode Island.

Chain and independent pharmacies are not the only community pharmacy options open to pharmacists. Increasingly, supermarket pharmacies are offering more patient services and are becoming indispensable pharmacy resources for their patients. They also have become a very attractive practice setting for pharmacists.

"Today's consumers are looking for answers to help them self-manage their health, and supermarkets have recognized that a pharmacy within the store uniquely positions them to meet this customer demand," said Cathy Polley, vice president of pharmacy services at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), a supermarket trade organization. "Our members believe that there is significant value in leveraging food and pharmacy within the store, and it is rare today that a supermarket opens today without a pharmacy."

Polley said that 71% of today's pharmacies dispense prescriptions, up from 51% 10 years ago. "Supermarket pharmacies now fill 14% of all retail prescriptions and account for more than 9% of total store sales. This strong performance demonstrates that pharmacies are strategically essential to food retailers," she said.

A recent FMI study found that supermarket pharmacies offer a growing array of health and wellness services, often working closely with other health care specialists such as dietitians and nurse practitioners. Nearly half of all food retailers surveyed in the FMI study provide health seminars and disease management programs. Nearly 40%, for example, offer walk-in clinics.

"Supermarket pharmacies offer many professional services to enhance the shopping experience for their consumers who are trying to live healthier lifestyles," said Polley. "Our supermarket Pharmacy Trends 2008 survey reports that more than 80% of supermarket pharmacies are offering or planning to offer medication therapy management [MTM] services." The survey found that diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and high cholesterol are the most commonly addressed medical conditions in supermarket MTM programs.


At Franklin Park, Illinois?based SUPERVALU Pharmacies, pharmacists perform a variety of in-store clinical services that include immunizations, MTM, and diabetes care services. "With today's rising rates of diabetes, obesity, and related health conditions, we are further expanding our pharmacy services to better address these growing public health concerns," said Nikki Price, RPh, director of pharmacy education at SUPERVALU Pharmacies.

"Our location in a supermarket environment puts us in a great position to reach large segments of the population across the country and make a significant impact," said Price. "We believe that by teaching our patients and store customers how to make wise food and pharmacy choices, our pharmacists can help them stay healthy or manage any health conditions they have."

SUPERVALU's Eating Healthy With Diabetes program gives the chain's Diabetes Care pharmacists opportunities to talk with their patients about diabetes in a way that is instructional and easy to understand. "In addition to providing guidance on the best ways to manage their medications and properly use their blood glucose meters, our Diabetes Care Pharmacists team up with registered dietitians to conduct educational store tours," said Price. "These store tours focus on food label reading and education on the basis of making healthy choices for meals and snacks, as well as understanding all pharmacy solutions to maximize health."


A&P, first known as The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, has the distinction of being one of the nation's first supermarket chains. The grocery chain is another example of a supermarket chain that is focused on strong pharmacy services. The company operates more than 440 stores, which include 134 supermarkets with pharmacies. A&P's corporate culture is creative and inviting—an environment that makes it an attractive place for pharmacists to work.

At A&P, pharmacists oversee all aspects involved in running the day-to-day operations of the pharmacy. Pharmacists develop, implement, and deliver high-quality pharmaceutical services while maintaining high standards of pharmaceutical care. Staff pharmacists ensure that all prescriptions are prepared and dispensed in compliance with company policy, pharmacy procedure, and state and federal laws. They also develop and execute in-store and local merchandising programs and promote the pharmacy business overall.

Disease management and patient counseling are key areas for A&P pharmacists. "Many of our pharmacists are involved in medication therapy management, which enables them to spend time with patients. We also encourage them to partner with community health screenings, health fairs, and other events," said Carol DiNicolantonio, senior director of pharmacy at A&P. "We enable our pharmacists to present and implement ideas on state-of-the-art pharmaceutical practices regularly. We actually have a team of clinical pharmacists who meet to discuss best practices on a regular basis and who share their ideas with others throughout the organization."

A&P staff pharmacists have a number of opportunities for career growth on 2 career paths. Some pharmacists choose to become pharmacy managers and then progress to district manager and other management positions, while others opt for a clinical pharmacist position and progress through that channel.

In summary, supermarket pharmacies have a lot to offer—not only do they provide convenience for patients to complete their pharmacy needs while they are grocery shopping, but this provides an ideal point for pharmacists to become involved in their patients' health care and affect patient outcomes.

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