Big Stupid Does It Again

Jp Enlarged

Senators ask about Rite Aid’s ‘wellness ambassador’

March 12th, 2012

NEW YORK – Addressing concerns expressed by two U.S. senators, Rite Aid Corp. has clarified the role of its “wellness ambassadors,” a key feature of the drug chain’s new “wellness store” format.

In press announcements late last week, Sens. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) and Richard Blumental (D., Conn.) questioned if Rite Aid was confusing customers with the wellness ambassadors. The senators said customers might mistake the ambassadors — who wear white coats — for a pharmacist and wondered if the ambassadors were making product recommendations or providing health advice or product information for which they lacked sufficient knowledge or training.

The Camp Hill, Pa.-based drug store chain, however, said the function of the ambassadors is presented clearly to customers and the ambassadors aren’t portrayed as health care professionals.

This was in “Chain Drug Review”.  Who are these smiling young women wearing white coats.  Technicians?  I don’t think so.  They are NOT pharmacists. Do you see what I see?  These “Wellness Ambassadors” are going to be giving OTC advice.  I will not allow my techs to do that.  These babes will be illegally making claims about supplements.  ”Oh yes, ma’am.  You won’t be fat anymore if you buy this $60.00 a month GNC product that has as its active ingredient something called ephedra equistina.

Rite-Aid is engaging in dangerous practices.  What Big Stupid does can affect the entire industry.   The CEO at Rite-Aid is a grocery store man.  He has no standing in the pharmacy industry. If you have never been in the water, you will never swim.  The Rite-Aid MBA Masters of the Universe who came up with this any-girl-in-a-white-coat “Ambassador” Bullshit again make pharmacy look like crap.

You know that your wife’s elderly Aunt Sally is going to the accessible “Ambassador” when she has questions.  The RAD pharmacist is too damn busy cranking The Prescription Mill to talk to Sally.  The pharmacist never knows that Sally has a question.

This is a serious professional problem and the “Profession” needs to make a statement.  Where should that come from?  The APhA.  Yeah, I know, you are laughing so hard you gave yourself a hernia.

I do not want to put the onus on the RAD pharmacists in stores where the “Wellness Ambassador” program is in effect, but I have to.  The minute you see Rose Ann giving professional advice, you gotta stand up and say something.

Our friend “PharmacistSteve” has a good handle on on to communicate appropriately and cover your own ass in the process.  Steve, will you take a minute to give an outline please.

By the way, this program is transparent.  Big Stupid’s desperation is dripping all over it.  They are trying to mimic the program that WAG is instituting.  WAG puts pharmacists out front.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Aaron  •  Mar 14, 2012 @4:39 pm

    What would happen to the first chain pharmacy that increased their number of staff pharmacists with the goal of always having one pharmacist available to readily answer clinical question? This doesn’t cross the minds of the MBAs that only want a licensed pharmacist to legally cover their ass. WAG, gradually is exploring the idea of practicing retail pharmacy in a way that actually mirrors what the academics think of as community pharmacy.

    WAG is taking on residents as they are realizing that having someone to handle Medication Therapy Management nets a lot more reimbursement than dispensing to the whims of the lowest bidder. If they embrace this path, even half halfheartedly does Rite Aid or Express Scripts stand a chance.

  2. Pharmaciststeve  •  Mar 14, 2012 @5:46 pm

    IMO… this is a BOP issue.. and think that the BOP’s should react.. just like they did with their 15 minute guarantee… DOA !

    Any RPH with a “wellness ambassador” in their store should be sending emails – multiple emails if necessary – to their BOP until this fraud on the public is stopped.

    If the BOP fails to act… then the RPH’s should start filing complaints with the state’s AG’s office for the BOP not doing their job … patient safety…

    Any RPH’s who is a competitor of these stores should be also emailing the BOP… Hell.. make sure that your local paper/TV is sent the article about the letter from the two Senators

    If you are a competitor… compose a letter with the article enclosed mail/fax to the major prescribers in your market… so these prescribers will be aware that “untrained impersonators” may be making OTC recommendations to their patients… if they seek advice at the local Rite Aid..

    Are these people “practicing pharmacy without a license?”… are they impersonating a Pharmacist or Pharmacy tech?”

    Should the permit holder be fined for even setting up such a program?

    This is yet another patient safety issue… profit dollars over patient’s health/safety.

  3. Pharmaciststeve  •  Mar 14, 2012 @6:45 pm
  4. Peon  •  Mar 14, 2012 @8:24 pm

    RiteAid has done it again with another nutty idea. Instead of paying these “wellness ambassadors”, they should be paying for more tech help. Yes, this looks like an issue for the BOP’s and maybe for the board of physicians too. These folks could go to jail for practicing medicine without a license.

  5. pharmacyslave2000  •  Mar 15, 2012 @6:32 pm

    Lets not blow our wad here boys over this. I work in a store with a wellness ambassador so let me explain how it works, at least in my store. The wellness ambassador functions as a liason. They are there to answer simple questions regarding merchandise and to lead the customer back to the pharmacist with questions. My wellness ambassadors NEVER attempt to answer any medical questions nor do they recommend products to treat illness unless I tell them a specific product to get the customer after I SPEAK TO THE CUSTOMER. They do not have access to any literature or websites that would provide them with information to make a diagnosis or treatment suggestion. HOWEVER, they do have certain products that they are told by corporate to steer customers towards. The organic foods section and the vitamin section are two of those. They are also required to set up and staff a “wellness event” once a month which could include bringing in a nurse for blood pressure screenings or a diabetes educator to show customers how to best use a glucometer among many other things. I really don’t believe that RAD was intentionally trying to mislead the public. I think it is actually a good idea but poorly executed. These types of positions also exist at another chain in my area but no one seems to care about that which makes me think that this is a RAD witch hunt. Again, this is what occurs at my store. I cannot speak for other locations. Maybe there is cause for concern elsewhere.

  6. anonymous  •  Mar 15, 2012 @6:47 pm

    Rite aid is wasting precious money on glorified techs (in our store she’s a cashier) to be ambassadors. They have no clue about counseling or recommendations so say goodbye raise to pay for that 600 dollar Ipad and the extra 20 hours this ambassador sucks from the store every week. You WILL hear, pharmacist question! more often b/c he or she has no clue. BTW, did you get the story about mandatory non flu shots? Don’t meet your minimum and you get written up. 3 writes up and you are fired. What, you aren’t generating rxs from TIPs and Mirixa, you need to be writen up. Seriously to those of you that defend Rite Aid, you must secretely be DMs. There is no excuse for this behavior. CVS is also copying this process but so far no threats of write ups. If anyone wants to start a Rite aid forum to rant on facebook please let me know and let it be private.

  7. pharmacyslave2000  •  Mar 15, 2012 @7:06 pm

    My comments were based solely on my experiences at my store. I cannot speak for what occurs elsewhere. Like I said, the wellness ambassadors were a good idea but bad execution. I didn’t hear anything about the non-flu immunization quota yet. It seems that the DM and PDM for a district can make or break the business as they seem to pick and choose what is important. I guess I’ve been lucky in that I work in a busy store that continually meets and/or exceeds the plan numbers so they seem to leave us alone for the most part. Regardless of where you work, things are very employee un-friendly right now, especially for pharmacists. It’s a shame we cannot be left alone to do our jobs without the micro-managing of every daily activity.

  8. Peon  •  Mar 15, 2012 @9:28 pm

    No matter how you ‘cut it’, the so called ‘wellness ambassadors’ are taking up payroll money that could better be spent inside the pharmacy to provide more tech help. I can understand some of the reasoning for them. I too see a need for someone to walk around the front of the pharmacy and help customers. This would improve customer service and should lead to more sales of OTC’s. But, my guess is that corporate is only going to allow so much money for the pharmacy and that money should be spent on more tech help or increased tech hours. I have seen a lot of so called ‘good ideas’ come and go over the years. In the end, it comes down to money. My guess is that most chain stores don’t have the payroll for these “wellness ambassors” and the money will come by cutting pharmacy tech payroll.

  9. NY Peon  •  Mar 15, 2012 @10:33 pm

    Peon has a point about the payroll money. Personally, I believe that the wellness ambassador position won’t last long simply because I can’t see RAD dedicating payroll money to what is strictly a customer service position. God knows they cut both the pharmacy and front end budgets to the bone without stopping to think about how we can provide “superior customer service” with no staff in the store to do it. Give it a year and I think the wellness ambassador position will either be gone or morphed into something completely different from what we see now. RAD is just too stingy with payroll dollars.

  10. Unhappy Pharmacist  •  Mar 17, 2012 @12:42 pm

    Why do you need ambassadors? Do they think people are so stupid they can’t find the pharmacy in the midst of that big convenience store? Really CVS WAG RAD are really just convenience stores with a pharmacy!!!! Maybe they should be called greeters like Walmart has! Walmart, at least has the guts to admit their pharmacies are loss leader just to get people in. Oh & by the way they treat their pharmacy staff quite well compared to the big 3!

  11. The Redheaded Pharmacist  •  Mar 17, 2012 @1:41 pm

    I have to agree completely with Pharmaciststeve, I think this is a BOP issues whether they are willing to address it or not. I just don’t understand how it even gets to the point where two Senators have to send a letter to Rite Aid. Why didn’t the BOPs in the states that have these ambassadors or whatever they want to call them step up and question Rite Aid themselves? I personally see this experiment failing miserably due to it’s cost to the company. But even so, the fact that an idea like this is actually tested should raise some concerns for pharmacists.

    White coats, really? How is it possible that Rite Aid can plant people in their stores out front who don’t have a medical degree with a white coat on? Please, anyone, explain to me how this isn’t misleading customers? Bonus points to any BOP member that can defend the fact that the BOPs in these states aren’t even questioning the company about this idea.

  12. Pharmaciststeve  •  Mar 17, 2012 @3:22 pm

    http://www.nabp.net/meetings/2012-annual-meeting/sponsors-2/

    Here is something that was sent to me… this is annual meeting of all the BOP’s execs… and look who the major sponsors are…

    Haven’t we seen where there are limits on what trips..etc..etc.. Congress can accept from lobby groups? Because of conflict of interest???

    Are the regulators and the major players that they regulate getting a little too “cozy”??

    Actually … do they really regulate these permit holders?? since the PIC’s of these permit holders are the ones who have all the legal responsibilities ?

  13. Peon  •  Mar 18, 2012 @1:05 pm

    Steve, the NABP sponsors make the whole event obscene! I have never liked the NABP. And, just why do we need NABP? Just tell me what the NABP does for us??? And, just who pays those folks salary?

  14. Pharmaciststeve  •  Mar 18, 2012 @5:24 pm

    Here is their annual report for 2010
    http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2010/361/520/2010-361520565-07766383-9.pdf
    25 MILLION in revenue and Catizone pay package > 500,000
    8 MILLION annual SURPLUS revenue

  15. Peon  •  Mar 18, 2012 @7:53 pm

    Steve, very interesting information about NABP! Most of their money comes from exams & assessments, accreditations, and liscence transfers. My question is who gives them authority of pharmacy? They are only an ‘association’ of boards of pharmacy. So, the only power they could have would be that given to them by the state boards. But, why the heck do we need them? We have the state boards and it is the state boards responsible for the health and welfare of the citizens of their state. But, I guess we need this ‘big corporation’ gouging us peon pharmacists

  16. Unhappy Pharmacist  •  Mar 21, 2012 @10:25 am

    After recently dealing with NABP, I must agree with Peon! They are just a money making scheme. Why can’t BOP’s work together to get things done. It would be much less complicated!!!

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