- Select Albertsons, Jewel-Osco and Acme supermarket pharmacies in Boise, Idaho; Chicago and Philadelphia will work with personalized medicine specialist Genomind to offer customers genetic testing designed to help clinicians make better treatment decisions for patients dealing with mental health issues.
- Under the partnership at 28 stores, specially trained pharmacists could counsel a patient if they see that person having unsuccessful experiences with medicine prescribed for depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or other mental illness, according to the grocery giant. Up to half of all patients respond poorly to the first psychiatric medicine they try because everyone’s body is different, partly based on their individual genetic makeup, the release notes.
- If the patient agrees, the pharmacist would contact the treating clinician and suggest a genetic test, which identifies patient-specific genetic markers which could pinpoint treatment options. The pharmacist would take the consumer to a private area to collect a small amount of saliva for DNA, and later share test results with both patients and their doctors.
Albertsons Co.’s move follows a growing trend by grocers to expand in-house pharmacies and to offer wide-ranging health care services to customers, although the foray into mental health appears new.
Today’s consumers look for convenience, and grocers hope in-store pharmacies will entice customers to both pick up medications and food shop in their stores. With stores such as Walgreens or CVS adding more fresh foods and grocery items to their shelves, many grocery chains feel the push to add pharmacies. In fact, consultant Gary Ellis told the Modern Medicine Network that every new prescription is worth $43 in additional sales in other departments.
Typically, grocery store pharmacies have focused on heart health, diabetes and nutrition training. Supervalu’s pharmacy division started offering free diabetes screenings and announced plans to provide free 90-minute grocery store tours with a pharmacist and dietitian to help those with diabetes learn to live and eat well, according to The Shelby Report.
Wegmans rolled out health kiosks last year in its stores and corporate sites, which allow customers and employees to measure their weight, body mass index, pulse and blood pressure. Schnucks has added cardiovascular health kiosks in its 95 pharmacy locations. According to Supermarket News, Schnucks is installing the kiosks to help drive Medicare Star Ratings, specifically in areas of medication adherence for hypertension and blood pressure control.
But it’s one thing to fill a prescription and another to actively suggest a medication might not be working. It's uncertain how pharmacists will approach customers about possible genetic testing under the Albertsons program, or how doctors might react to the suggestion medications aren’t working.
Consumers who feel comfortable having their blood pressure or cholesterol tested in a grocery store might feel less comfortable with a pharmacist asking if their depression is being properly treated and would they care for a DNA test? It's too early to tell if they will see this has helpful or intrusive.
Since the concept is new, Albertsons recognizes the need for consumer education, Mark Panzer, a senior vice president of pharmacy, health and wellness for the company, said in a statement. Albertsons feels comfortable with Genomind’s methods, and expects to expand the services to more of its pharmacies in the future, he added.
Many grocery chains see in-house pharmacies as an important way to bring people through the door, and they are increasingly offering low- or no-cost medical screenings in efforts to meet the whole-person needs of consumers. Industry leaders will be watching to see if shoppers feel comfortable with grocers also offering to help with mental health issues.