Grocery chain to offer chemo, other IV treatments

'It's not something you associate with a supermarket'

Schnucks—a grocery chain based in the Midwest—has opened its first ambulatory infusion center, where nurses and pharmacists provide infusion therapy for acute and chronic conditions, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

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The 6,500-square-foot Schnucks Infusions Solutions facility opened in September and is staffed by nurses with certified registered nurse infusion accreditations from the Infusion Nurses Certification Corp. With the help of pharmacists and technicians, the nurses prepare and administer infusion therapy for a range of conditions, including cancer, Crohn's disease, and multiple sclerosis. Unlike many infusion centers, staffers have access to patient's online health records.

There are only three infusion chairs per room, and customers have access to no-cost Internet, cable television, and snacks while they receive their infusions, a process that can take up to eight hours. "It’s not the typical hospital-feel atmosphere," says a patient with Crohn's disease who uses the Schnucks center. He adds, "They put the human touch on it."

In addition to regular hours, the center offers appointments in the evening and on the weekends. The center also offers a home service, where staffers travel to a customer's homes to administer the treatment.

"It's not something you associate with a supermarket," says Michael Abrams, managing partner of a health care consulting firm in St. Louis, Mo.

Abrams says the venture makes business sense: Infusion centers provide costly treatments and can increase the customer base for the supermarket. Insurers and patients also like the centers because they provide treatment at a lower cost than most hospitals.  

A broader trend?

Schnucks is not the first retailer to explore infusion therapy: Walgreen has been offering infusion services for years and now has 75 infusions pharmacies across the country.

According to Morningstar analyst Vishnu Lekraj, Schnucks' move into specialty pharmacies is part of a national trend. "It's going to be a trend over the next five to 10 years," he says, adding, "The specialty drugs and the need for those drugs make them very profitable" (Kulash, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11/5; AP/Kansas City Star, 11/5; Liss, "Health care Inc.," St. Louis Business Journal, 11/5).

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