What could Domino's Pizza and
pharmacy possibly have in common? Well, nothing I'm aware of, but Save Mart
Supermarkets and Lucky stores in California have apparently ripped a page
right out of Domino's marketing playbook by announcing one of the most
thoughtless pharmacy marketing campaigns to reach my desk, the "19-Minute
Promise." The "Promise" guarantees customers that up to three new
prescriptions will be filled in 19 minutes or less. If the pharmacists cannot
meet this deadline, the customer receives a $10 gift card and a coupon for a
one-night movie rental.
Does this sound familiar? To
some of you it should. Back in 1979, Domino's Pizza was looking to get an edge
up on its competitors and initiated a guarantee on how fast a pizza would be
delivered to a home. The company's slogan was more or less "30 minutes or it's
free." I think most industry observers will agree, the promotion was pretty
successful. But according to the investigative Web site, Snopes.com, the
free-delivery campaign came to a screeching halt in 1993 when Domino's was
faced with multimillion-dollar lawsuit settlements arising from car accidents
involving its drivers.
When I heard of Save Mart's
19-minute promise, all I could do was scratch my head and ask, "What was Save
Mart's management thinking?" This promotion earns a well-deserved spot on my
wall of shame for one of the most absurd pharmacy marketing campaigns in
history. Forget about the obvious fact that the extra pressure being put on
pharmacists to meet the 19-minute time limit is likely to increase the number
of errors; it is just another blatant example of a chain treating potent
prescription drugs as a commodity and showing no respect for the profession of
pharmacy or the important role pharmacists perform daily in keeping patients
from avoiding a health care crisis. Save Mart management needs to be reminded
that their pharmacists are not delivering pizza.
Unfortunately, this latest
marketing fiasco is only one of a string of marketing programs over the past
year or so that have cheapened the value of pharmacy and the importance of
pharmacists. You may remember I reported that New Jersey, among other states,
is posting prescription prices on a state-run Web site encouraging its
citizens to shop around for the best prescription prices, despite the fact
that getting prescriptions filled at multiple pharmacies exponentially
increases the chances of potentially fatal drug–drug interactions. And the
plethora of discounted copycat programs following the now infamous Wal-Mart $4
generic prescription drug program has not served the profession of pharmacy
well either. Those programs also encourage trips to multiple pharmacies and
reduce prescriptions to a commodity purchase.
With so many discount and
third-party prescription programs today, it is questionable whether these
discounts are really saving consumers that much money; but there is no
question they are helping to put patients' health at risk. And there is also
no debate that they all diminish or, worse yet, dismiss the vitally important
contributions that pharmacists provide to this country's health care delivery
system. One has only to wonder what this country's health care system would be
like without the pharmacist. Even Domino's will admit that pizza just isn't
the same once you take the cheese off it.
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