Diabetes epidemic may get squashed by supermarket-pharmacy offerings

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT More and more, the local food-drug supermarket-pharmacy combo is on the front line of the nation’s epic battle against the roaring diabetes epidemic. And given the natural alliance between pharmacy-based health-and-wellness programs on the one hand, and a well-conceived, nutritionally sound program in the food aisles for diabetics and other customers with special health concerns on the other, it’s a fitting place to wage such a fight.

(THE NEWS: Price Chopper introduces Diabetes AdvantEdge. For the full story, click here)

To that end, supermarket operators are stepping up their campaign to ally themselves with the vast population of Americans who either already have diabetes, or are at risk for getting it. And what better way than to offer customers free medications to treat the disease?

Price Chopper is the latest to offer free medicines, unveiling in mid-May a new diabetes management program designed to increase patients’ access to medication, support and information. The new offering, called Diabetes AdvantEdge, provides commonly prescribed diabetes medications as metformin, glipizide and glyburide, as well as free lancets and lancing devices for monitoring blood sugar. For free.

Price Chopper joins at least two other food/pharmacy store retailers, Publix and Meijer, in offering free diabetes drugs. It’s the kind of venture that will cost the chain some topline revenues, but given the fact that diabetic patients spend two to three times as much at their local pharmacy each year as do those without the condition, it makes economic as well as altruistic sense.

That’s especially true for food/drug combo stores. With their vast potential for tailoring food offerings and healthy-eating choices to the dietary needs of different customer segments, supermarkets like Price Chopper – already one of the industry’s real innovators in healthy eating choices and nutritional awareness programs – have an opportunity to build new and powerful connections with their customers. And building loyalty with the diabetic consumer pays even higher long-term dividends.