Retail pharmacy and the diabetes epidemic

December 11, 2009

More than 23 million Americans, close to 8 percent of the population, have diabetes. For drugstores, the medical nature of their retail business makes them the outlet of choice for shoppers purchasing diabetes products. Retail pharmacists may choose to maximize patient awareness by placing their diabetes-care display and educational literature near the pharmacy counter.

Key Points

When you hear references to a diabetes epidemic, that's no exaggeration. The most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that more than 23 million Americans, or close to 8 percent of the population, have diabetes, and for nearly a quarter of them, the disease is undiagnosed.

Obesity is one of the main precursors to developing the disease and more than 66 million Americans adults are now designated as obese. As obesity rates continue to rise, so will the prevalence of diabetes. In fact, the number of people with diabetes is predicted to double by 2050 to more than 48 million people.

The value of the consumer

Diabetes-related products are a main component of home healthcare kits, which, according to national numbers from Information Resources, Inc., brought in more than $460 million dollars in sales in food, drug, and mass outlets (excluding Walmart) during the 52 weeks ending July 12, 2009. Eighty-six percent of those sales took place in drugstores.

Self-management & technology

In the age of technology and consumer-driven healthcare, iPhone and iPod Touch users with diabetes can manage their illness with specialized applications ("apps"). AgaMatrix, maker of the WaveSense meter line, offers a free app featuring easy-to-use data entry; dynamic graphing of glucose data; automatic mealtime tagging of results; integrated data management of food intake, activity, and medication; insulin dose management; statistical analysis and integrated e-mailing of glucose results; help menus; and personalized settings.

Sensei, a subsidiary of Humana, has launched My Diabetes Guide, an app that takes users step-by-step through the keys to healthy living with diabetes. According to Sensei, the user's mobile phone will inform patients about what to know, what to do, what to eat, and what to ask their doctors, as it personally guides users to better diabetes self-management.

Make diabetes care prominent

Drugstores have an advantage over other outlets: They offer the self-management items diabetes patients need, and they employ pharmacists who can educate these consumers about healthy choices and steps they can take. For this reason, retail pharmacists may choose to place their diabetes-care display near the pharmacy counter. Offering educational literature right in the aisle can really set the store apart.

Categories to place near the diabetes-care section include weight control and nutritional foods and vitamins/dietary supplements. Weight loss can help patients avoid many of the complications of diabetes, so a nearby display makes sense. Also, many older persons with diabetes take vitamins and supplements daily, and this natural adjacency may increase their market-basket total.

Jennifer Johnston is with Hamacher Resource Group, Inc. (http://www.hamacher.com/), which provides category management, marketing communications, and retailing strategies to the retail healthcare industry.