US Pharm. 2008;33(11):2.
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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