CVS becomes CVS Health, ends tobacco sales early

Pharmacists have role in helping smokers quit

CVS Caremark officially changed its corporate name to CVS Health on September 3 to emphasize its expanding role in providing health care services.

The name change coincides with the company’s announcement that it will also stop selling tobacco products beginning this month. That decision comes 1 month earlier than originally planned; CVS Caremark had announced in early February that it would stop selling all tobacco products at its more than 7,800 CVS/pharmacy locations by October 1.

“The change you will see is a further emphasis on health,” said a CVS Health spokesperson in an e-mail to pharmacist.com. “It means offering services to help our health plan partners improve their offerings, grow, and become more profitable.”

Under the CVS Health umbrella will be the company’s community pharmacy business, which will still be known as CVS/pharmacy; CVS Caremark, its pharmacy benefit management business; and its walk-in medical clinics and specialty pharmacy services.

APhA applauded the original announcement by CVS Caremark back in February to lead the way in being the first national community pharmacy chain to amplify its focus on health and wellness by ending tobacco sales.

APhA has long opposed the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies and stated in official policy, which was adopted in 2010 by APhA’s House of Delegates, that it supports the “discontinuation of the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies and facilities that include pharmacies.”

Pharmacists can lead the way

Research has pointed to the role pharmacists can play in helping smokers quit.

Results from a randomized controlled trial to test the feasibility of a smoking cessation program in 16 Walgreens pharmacies in south–central Wisconsin were published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association in 2012. The objective was to see whether people wanted pharmacists to help them quit smoking. If so, pharmacists made a referral to a quit line for that person. The study found that significantly more smokers in the experimental group of pharmacies versus the control group were asked about tobacco use, advised to quit, and ultimately enrolled in the quit line.

“We found that it was very feasible to do this kind of intervention,” Betty Chewning, PhD, one of the study authors and Director of the Sonferegger Research Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy, told pharmacist.com.

But she noted the importance of advertising this service to customers—also done in the trial—and attributed much of the success of the intervention to that.

"Pharmacists feel more comfortable if the smoker initiates their interest," she said.

CVS Health also said it is launching a national smoking cessation program, which will be delivered by CVS pharmacists at all store locations.

“Pharmacists will be able to provide a readiness assessment and customized plan for the customer who wants to quit,” said the CVS spokesperson.

Existing bans have reduced tobacco purchases

In a Health Affairs blog post about community pharmacy health care and tobacco published September 3, Troyen Brennan, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of CVS Health, and colleagues cited policies enacted at pharmacies in San Francisco and Boston being linked to a reduction in the purchase of tobacco products.

Based on 512 households in San Francisco and 377 in Boston who participated in the IRI Consumer Network National Consumer Panel, there was a 13% reduction in the number of households purchasing tobacco products after bans to eliminate the sale of tobacco in pharmacies were put in place.

“The findings are bolstered by the fact that reductions were not seen in the number of people purchasing other products in these cities, and reductions in tobacco purchasing were more pronounced in Boston and San Francisco than other cities without a ban,” wrote the study authors.

Smoking remains one of the most preventable causes of death and disease in the United States, with more than 480,000 Americans dying from cigarette smoking each year.

While some U.S. pharmacies have voluntarily chosen to discontinue the sale of tobacco products through the years, there is no official policy to eliminate its sale in pharmacies.

So far, no other national community pharmacies have announced plans for a change in policy on tobacco sales. 

Ad Position
Bottom Center Aligned
Spotlight Image