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Another Reason To Stop Using Drugs

My vision for health care's future is one that emphasizes treating the underlying causes of disease over "one-size-fits-all" cures with "band aid" like drugs that never get to the heart of a condition. Many of you believe in my vision, but there's still far too many who remain way too skeptical for your own good. A move by the nation's third leading retail drugstore chain may make you reconsider that stance.

Rite-Aid Corp. stores in West Virginia are participating in a pilot program that would charge patients and their insurers consulting fees for minor checkups. Drugstores, from the major retailers to smaller regional chains, are looking to expand their counseling programs and boost revenue, a trend that could be bolstered by the prescription-drug benefit that will become available to Medicare enrollees in 2006.

Business people claim regular consultations help patients stay healthier because many patients don't take their medication correctly. As a result, both patients and insurers will save money. One drugstore industry rep has noticed that many chains have begun looking at how they can transform a pharmacy from a place where one can obtain drugs into a place where you deliver health care."

When a business move like this one starts, always look for the money. For drugstores, the consulting revenue could help them compete with online pharmacies and restore some profit margins on prescriptions that HMOs and pharmacy benefits managers have squeezed in recent years. Nevertheless, industry experts don't expect consultation revenue to amount to a "big windfall."

Seattle Post-Intelligencer September 28, 2004

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