HealthyPharmacies.org eyes ‘pharmacy of the future’

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SAN FRANCISCO — HealthyPharmacies.org, a health and wellness retail initiative launched by Elephant Pharmacy founder Stuart Skorman, plans a series of "pharmacy of the future" pilot programs this summer.

The nonprofit said Thursday that in several cities in the San Francisco Bay area, it’s working to design and build turnkey wellness centers in chain stores containing pharmacies.

Each center, which will be adapted to available space in the host stores, will include an educational component, featuring live and video-based classes; health care professionals on hand to offer advice and guidance and supervise educational events; and a variety of high-margin natural products, such as food, supplements, body care and beauty items, and health-related books.

HealthyPharmacies.org said that the centers will be staffed by such health care professionals as pharmacists, qualified graduate school students, advice nurses, aestheticians, nutritionists and herbalists, and that all of the pilot programs will be designed to be profitable for the stores.

According to Skorman, HealthyPharmacies.org’s solution for in-store wellness centers is based on concepts first developed at Elephant Pharmacy, which closed its remaining three stores in early February 2009.

"We are building on the widespread popularity in the San Francisco area for Elephant Pharmacy, which was essentially a store-of-the-future pilot program," explains the entrepreneur, who is the nonprofit’s executive director and also helped invent Whole Foods Market. "A variety of organizations, including academic institutions, local governments and health care nonprofits, will be helping to both design and operate the different pilot programs. One city government is considering allowing 24-hour drive-through windows as an incentive for chains to participate."

HealthyPharmacies.org, too, said it aims to help retail pharmacies foster wellness through messaging. To that end, it has introduced a new healthy messaging section on its web site with 23 wellness messages designed to fit on in-store signs. The nonprofit plans to offer pharmacies new messages from health care practitioners and organizations monthly.

And in line with its mission of promoting wellness in pharmacies, HealthyPharmacies.org has been advocating the elimination of tobacco sales by pharmacies, noting that such products conflict with pharmacies’ standing as health and wellness destinations.

In fact, the nonprofit predicts that tobacco will be sold in few if any U.S. pharmacies within three years — especially if a major chain such as CVS, Walgreens or Walmart would go tobacco-free, which would push other retailers to follow suit to maintain their wellness message.

"We’ve been amazed at how strong the support is for throwing tobacco out of all pharmacies," comments Skorman. "The first mover will have the opportunity to pull off the PR coup of the century in the pharmacy industry. All the pharmacies have put wellness at the center of their marketing campaigns. But by eliminating tobacco from their stores, they will be sending a strong message to consumers that they really do care about peoples’ health while their competitors don’t."

In early November, HealthyPharmacies.org proposed that limiting tobacco sales exclusively to pharmacies would significantly reduce smoking, since putting cigarettes and other tobacco items behind the pharmacy counter would give pharmacists an opportunity to provide smoking cessation education and suggest smoking cessation products. However, the nonprofit said pharmacy school leaders and anti-smoking groups strongly rejected the proposal because they think pharmacists — as health care providers — should not sell tobacco under any circumstances.


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