Do clinics in drugstores bring in a captive audience?

June 6, 2005

The next time you walk into a chain or mass-merchandiser pharmacy, don't be surprised if you find a clinic. Two separate entities, MinuteClinic and WellnessExpress Clinic, are forging partnerships with pharmacy chains, mass merchants, and corporations.

The next time you walk into a chain or mass-merchandiser pharmacy, don't be surprised if you find a clinic. Two separate entities, MinuteClinic and WellnessExpress Clinic, are forging partnerships with pharmacy chains, mass merchants, and corporations.

This month MinuteClinic, Minneapolis, debuts in three CVS stores. Two of these clinics are located in Minneapolis and one is situated in Annapolis, Md. Meanwhile on the West Coast, WellnessExpress Clinic is having grand openings in three Longs Drugs sites.

Linda Hall Whitman, CEO of MinuteClinic, told Drug Topics, "We are contemplating the possibility of expanding with CVS, pending the results of our pilot. We are looking to ensure that the space is appropriate and that the companies are teaming effectively." The four-year-old company operates 21 clinic sites in Minnesota and Maryland. In Minneapolis/St. Paul the clinics are located in five Target stores, four SuperValu/Cub Foods stores, an office park, Best Buy's and Guidant Corp.'s headquarters, and the University of Minnesota. MinuteClinic also operates in seven Baltimore Target stores, and it is likely that clinics will open in additional Target stores.

MinuteClinic will tout its presence in CVS stores in ads that will run in the chain's weekly circular as well as via TV commercials. "If CVS does any advertising, we will be paying for whatever portion of the commercial is about us," said Whitman.

WellnessExpress Clinic celebrated grand openings in Davis and Sonoma, Calif., last month. This month the clinic will open in Salinas. Future Longs' sites are planned. Wesley Chan, M.D., president of WellnessExpress, told Drug Topics, "Longs is ideal for this concept because that's where people go when they need health and wellness products."

Although Chan said that the benefit to Longs is increased traffic into the stores, he pointed out that clinic patients are clearly told they could fill their prescriptions at any pharmacy and, therefore, he doesn't know whether Rx sales at Longs have increased as a result of the clinics.

An advertising campaign that includes print, radio, and billboard ads will tout that the clinic is open in Longs. Direct mailings to patients and companies are also on the books.

In addition to minor medical conditions such as sore throats, ear infections, rashes, and insect bites, the clinic offers immunizations, including hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, pneumonia, and influenza. School, camp, and preemployment physicals are also available.

The cost of a visit for a minor medical condition is $54, and, during its grand openings, the clinic offered cholesterol screenings for $5. "We plan to have promotional activities in each of the new markets we enter," said Chan. "We plan to look at our scope of services and possibly expand the medical screenings we offer because people are asking for these screenings."

The clinic in Davis covers about 200 sq. ft. and includes a waiting room and an exam room. In both Davis and Sonoma the clinics are located next to the pharmacy. In Salinas, the clinic will be a 100-sq. ft., freestanding module located adjacent to the pharmacy.

Will there be a clinic opening in a pharmacy near you? "I think this trend will continue, and it will be a nationwide phenomenon," Chan said. "People are going to demand more affordable healthcare options and more convenience. Anyplace where there are rising healthcare costs and a large uninsured population, such as in California and Texas, you will see this concept and it will accelerate."