Suppliers helping pharmacies draw diabetes customers

October 1, 2004

Many manufacturers are helping pharmacy retailers draw diabetes patients into their stores and keep them coming back. The strategies they're using include extensive advertising, added diabetes services that help the pharmacists interact with customers, and awareness programs to educate minority populations affected by diabetes.

Many manufacturers are helping pharmacy retailers draw diabetes patients into their stores and keep them coming back. The strategies they're using include extensive advertising, added diabetes services that help the pharmacists interact with customers, and awareness programs to educate minority populations affected by diabetes.

"The biggest initiative I've seen [from most major manufacturers] is a 'buy the strips, get the meter for free' deal," said Emily Evans, Pharm.D., an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at South University School of Pharmacy and a practicing pharmacist in Savannah, Ga.

"This is, economically, very sound for both companies and the pharmacies, as the meters are generally a one-time purchase while the strips must be purchased regularly [for the life of the meter]," she said.

Into the pharmacy "To drive new patients into the pharmacy and get them to try new technologies, we do co-op advertising with pharmacies and drug chains. For patients on one of our systems, we have a 'buy a box of 100 strips and get a free meter,' so they can try the latest model," explained Duncan Williams, divisional VP of worldwide marketing, at Abbott Diabetes Care.

In addition, Abbott organizes "kick-start" programs, or "demonstra-tion days," with pharmacies. "Our representatives inform physicians and work with local pharmacies to plan when patients can come in and have a real-time testing done to experience the product," Williams said.

On these demo days a patient can experience a new technology, such as the FreeStyle meter (from TheraSense), which requires a small blood volume. "Patients can prick their finger to a lower depth, resulting in less pain.

Comprehensive approach Numerous companies provide handout information as well as on-line software systems for diabetes management, including meal and exercising planning. For example LifeScan, the maker of the OneTouch meters, provides handouts, such as a Patient Care Record and a Body Mass Index Chart, as well as others on nutrition, insulin, and daily care. It also offers the OneTouch Diabetes Management Software to be used with the OneTouch system. The software can be downloaded from a computer with a special cable available from LifeScan.

"The patient, pharmacist, or healthcare professional can hook up the meter and download the results into the software program. Patients can look at various charts and graphs and view their information by meal, by exercise, or by medication. This software helps them look at trends and identify patterns that can better direct their care," explained Jeff Christensen, public relations manager for LifeScan.

Continuing education Tyrone Ried, director of diabetes consumer marketing, Abbott's Ross Products Division, said pharmacists indicate that diabetes is one of the major areas in which they often receive questions from customers. Ross recently provided a continuing education program to all of the pharmacists from one of its a major retail customers. For the program, the pharmacists watched a live video feed on diabetes management so they could help counsel patients who might come to them with questions.

Abbott Diabetes Care also has a continuing medical education (CME) program targeted for pharmacists. "We have education programs on the importance of blood ketone testing for Type 1 patients," Williams said.

Advertising and awareness Bayer HealthCare, the maker of the Ascensia glucometers, uses mass advertising on both television and radio to help bring patients into the pharmacy. The company has been advertising extensively and will continue in the future, according to Linda Langendonk, manager, corporate communication at Bayer HealthCare.

Langendonk pointed out that the pharmacist sees the patient more frequently than any other healthcare professional. "So helping pharmacists add value to patient care will continue to drive customers to them for their diabetes care needs," she explained.