The American Dental Association and CVS Health on Monday announced a three-year oral care collaboration, according to a press release.
Through the partnership, the ADA will help CVS Pharmacy customers find a dentist, and ADA-approved dental care products like toothbrushes and toothpaste will be given a more prominent space in-store and online.
Meanwhile, Amazon is expanding its pharmacy and healthcare exploratory team from seven or eight people to more like 30 or 40, according to a CNBC report citing research from investment bank Leerink, which specializes in healthcare.
Ever since it decided to forego tobacco sales four years ago, CVS Health has been on a clear trajectory to become as much a health care provider as a retailer. The drugstore company has clearly differentiated itself, even amid similar moves by rivals, not least with its acquisition last month of health insurer Aetna for $69 billion.
The drugstore retailer — if it can still be called that — already has a substantial medical operation, running 9,700 CVS Pharmacy locations and 1,100 MinuteClinic walk-in clinics, as well as Omnicare senior pharmacy solutions, Coram infusion services and more than 4,000 CVS Health nursing professionals who provide in-clinic and home-based care nationwide.
The tie-up will likely be a boon to both the company and the ADA, according to Nilesh Chandra, a healthcare business expert with PA Consulting. "The ADA-CVS deal is one of the few examples of an association taking a public and highly visible role in patient education and driving a positive impact on outcomes for patients," he said in an email to Retail Dive. "We think this arrangement can serve as a blueprint for future collaborations between the industry and associations."
Despite such assertive initiatives in the sector, CVS won't be able to rest easy, in light of Amazon's own apparent ambitions in the space. Amazon has reportedly already received regulatory approval from about a dozen states to do business as a pharmacy wholesale distributor, already sells medical devices, employs executives to deal with health care-related regulatory issues, and is said to be exploring how to ramp up its efforts in the pharmacy space.
In November, Cowen & Co. analyst John Blackledge said that Amazon would do well to acquire Rite Aid, which would garner the e-commerce giant state pharmacy licenses and a drugstore infrastructure with pre-cleared regulatory hurdles. With that, Amazon could obtain pharmacy licenses in 19 states, six distribution centers and 2,575 regulatory-cleared stores, which could be useful at the e-commerce giant's new Whole Foods locations.
All these moves, real and imagined, are taking place at a time of upheaval in healthcare in America. With a repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual insurance mandate built into the recently enacted tax law, new questions about patients' costs and choices will inevitably arise. Dental care is a sort of poor stepchild in the sector, with many plans offering dental insurance at costs that are unreachable by many.
"We are committed to making it easier for our customers to find the right products and expertise to help manage all of their health and wellness needs," said Maly Bernstein, vice president of beauty and personal care at CVS Pharmacy. "Our partnership with ADA ensures that our customers have unparalleled access to the best oral health resources, expertise and assortment of products."
In March, CVS will install store signage promoting oral health information and display "ADA Seal" products in the oral health aisle and elsewhere; programs connecting oral health with specific seasons, holidays and health awareness months will launch this summer, according to a press release. Additional programs will also be developed with oral health manufacturers.