After two U.S. senators expressed concerns, Rite Aid Corp. has reiterated the role of its “wellness ambassador,” a key customer service feature of the drug chain’s new “wellness store” format.

Rite Aid, wellness ambassadors, wellness store, Richard Blumenthal, Richard Durbin, senators, John Standley, pharmacist, health professional, Russell Redman, drug chain, dietary supplements, pharmacy

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Rite Aid clarifies its wellness ambassador role

March 26th, 2012

NEW YORK – After two U.S. senators expressed concerns, Rite Aid Corp. has reiterated the role of its “wellness ambassador,” a key customer service feature of the drug chain’s new “wellness store” format.

In press announcements this month, Sens. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) and Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) questioned if Rite Aid was confusing customers.

“I am concerned that Rite Aid customers seeking a prescription or over-the-counter drugs are misled into believing the wellness ambassador is a pharmacist or health professional qualified to give medical advice,” Blumenthal stated. “This potential for confusion could have dramatic and dangerous consequences for consumers. People possibly posing as pharmacists wearing white coats in the pharmacy area could be making false and misleading claims about dietary supplements, which have not been reviewed by the FDA or approved to be marketed like drugs.”

Blumenthal and Durbin sent a letter explaining their concerns to Rite Aid president and chief executive officer John Standley.

“It has come to our attention that Rite Aid is establishing ‘wellness stations’ within its stores, which are staffed by ‘wellness ambassadors’ who take health questions from customers and recommend dietary supplements to treat medical conditions,” the senators wrote. “Because these wellness stations are located near the pharmacy, we are concerned that customers seeking medical assistance are misled to believe the station is affiliated with the pharmacy. The confusion is compounded by wellness ambassadors wearing white coats similar to those worn by pharmacists.”

Rite Aid introduced the ambassadors last year with the debut of its wellness store concept, now at about 300 locations. In explaining the new role, Rite Aid executives have specified that the job of the ambassador, who carries an iPad, is to help customers find products and information and to refer them to a pharmacist — not to dispense health advice or recommend products.

“They are there to enhance the customer experience, by greeting them and helping them locate a product, providing product information to customers and, most importantly, serving as a liaison to our pharmacists,” Rite Aid said in a statement. “Wellness ambassadors are clearly identified as such, with ‘wellness ambassador’ embroidered on their jacket as well as name badges. In most cases, their service station is conveniently located in the center of the store, so they can greet and assist customers and easily escort them to the pharmacy department, where they can speak with a licensed Rite Aid pharmacist.”

The wellness ambassadors “do not take the place of our pharmacists,” Rite Aid noted.

“They do not advise or counsel patients, nor do they make any product or treatment recommendations,” the company said of the ambassadors. “In fact, they are trained to bring patients who are seeking recommendations or those with questions to the pharmacist who can provide expert care, answer patient questions and even consult with the patients’ primary care provider, if necessary.”