Rite AidHeaded to Rite Aid (RAD) to get something for your pounding headache or flu symptoms? When you sidle up to the counter to discuss your symptoms with the helpful Rite Aid employee clad in a white coat, do you know if you're speaking to a pharmacist or just one of Rite Aid's "wellness ambassadors"?

Two U.S. senators say that the distinction isn't clear enough.

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) sent a letter Thursday to Rite Aid CEO John Standley, expressing concern about potentially deceptive marketing in the use of the wellness ambassadors.

At issue is a new store format Rite Aid adopted last spring that includes "wellness ambassadors" and "wellness stations" as part of its customer service strategy. Currently, Rite Aid operates its wellness program at 300 of its 4,700 stores.

Rite Aid

Bitter Pill

The congressmen expressed concern that consumers would seek medical advice from wellness ambassadors, who wear white coats similar to those of the pharmacists and whose wellness stations are located within close proximity to the pharmacy desk. In particular, they raise concerns about recommendations being made by wellness ambassadors for non-FDA-approved dietary supplements.

In their letter, the senators state:
We are concerned that Rite Aid customers seeking a prescription or an over-the-counter drug are misled into believing the wellness ambassador is a pharmacist or health professional qualified to dispense medical advice. This potential for confusion could result in dramatic and dangerous consequences for consumers.
Furthermore, we are deeply concerned that wellness ambassadors could be making false and misleading claims by marketing dietary supplements as treatments for health conditions. The Federal Trade Commission Act prohibits marketing products through "unfair or deceptive acts or practices," such as making explicit or implied medical claims that a dietary supplement can treat, prevent, or cure a specific disease or condition. Because wellness ambassadors field questions from Rite Aid customers about treatments for symptoms and health conditions, we are troubled that customers could be directed to purchase dietary supplements, which have not been reviewed by the FDA or approved to be marketed like drugs.
There are serious questions about whether dietary supplements actually improve the health of the individuals who take them -- and, in some cases, reports have linked them to harmful outcomes.

Say Aaah...

In their letter, the senators ask Rite Aid to ease their concerns by answering a half dozen or so questions on topics that range from the training ambassadors receive in handling customers' questions seeking medical advice to whether these ambassadors mostly direct consumers to dietary supplements as health aids.

Rite Aid, however, contends that its patient safety is always a priority and that the role of its wellness ambassadors is to serve as liaisons to pharmacists, locate products and serve as store greeters.

"Our ambassadors do not give counseling or advice," says Ashley Flower, a Rite Aid spokeswoman. "If patients have questions, like how a product may interact with another, they are referred to a pharmacist."

She added that the wellness ambassadors are often walking throughout the store, rather than standing near the wellness stations, which are used to hold brochures and other resources. The wellness station, Flower notes, is often located in the center of the store, but depending on space, could be set up near the pharmacy.

Rite Aid's Reputation

With stores like Walmart (WMT) encroaching on its prescription business, Rite Aid is right to try to step up its game in differentiating itself from competitors. Unfortunately, this attempt is getting the wrong kind of attention. (Several websites are already posting various Rite Aid complaints.)

When consumer health is on the line, you can't afford to make any customer relations missteps. Maybe Rite Aid should take a cue from Walmart: The stores have greeters, but they're not wearing white coats.

Motley Fool contributor Dawn Kawamoto does not own any stock in the companies listed. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walmart. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of and creating a diagonal call position in Walmart.




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213 Comments

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Wayne Bradshaw

Louis Vuitton Replica Handags usually was manufactured from China ,it is not authourized by louis vuitton .But they will come with the high quality that almost the same materials and handwork,So it is hard to distingush the Repilicas.

May 05 2012 at 11:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott H

I worked for Rite Aid many years ago. I have followed them since. I once wrote a paper on pharmacist liability and have continued research to update it. I have seen nothing since I left them to convince me their policies have changed. There are fundamental issues with Rite Aid's corporate culture.

March 20 2012 at 5:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jwgatapm

How ever did we survive before we were taken by the hand of the "most wise ones" and pulled in a righteous direction for our own good ? These two DEMS have nothing else to offer other than their allegiance to their masters!
Leave a company alone that has worked hard to pick itself up by its bootstraps, so to speak, unless there are legitimate reasons to poke it in the eye.
These two guys could use a dose of whatever Rite Aid is selling and maybe their approval ratings would rise. Come to think of it maybe they need to step up to the counter and order something blue. Couldn't hurt, could it??

March 16 2012 at 3:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mlsantelman

Good grief. Ron Paul is right! There is WAAAYYY too much government involvement in every aspect of our lives. These two senators revealed more clearly than anything else could that we - meaning our nation - have elected taking direction from big pharma. Elected officials who get their scrips filled free, by the way.

March 13 2012 at 1:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Just Some Dude

150,000-200,000 people are going to die this year (and every year) from pharma drugs.

The only person who is going to die from a vitamin is probably going to be some dude who accidentally chokes on an iron pill.

Sounds like these Congressmen are doing big pharma's chest pounding for them.

Meanwhile the FDA can go kiss my pasty white tail: I am healthy in spite of their crony approvals and lack of real scientific testing and suppression of real foods under the guise of protecting the people.

PS: Your blog is broken, Daily Finance. The posting mechanism is hosed.

March 13 2012 at 1:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Just Some Dude

150,000-200,000 people are going to die this year (and every year) from pharma drugs.

The only person who is going to die from a vitamin is probably going to be some dude who accidentally chokes on an iron pill.

Sounds like these Congressmen are doing big pharma's chest pounding for them.

Meanwhile the FDA can go kiss my pasty white tail: I am healthy in spite of their crony approvals and lack of real scientific testing and suppression of real foods under the guise of protecting the people.

March 13 2012 at 1:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kirk Patrick

Goddamn this f*cking blog. We seriously need to reinstate the death penalty for SHODDY SOFTWARE ENGINEERING.

March 13 2012 at 11:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kirk Patrick

Thank you Rite Aid for promoting true health! F*ck Big Pharma - I say we force-feed anyone who complains all the meds they promote!

March 13 2012 at 11:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kirk Patrick

Thank you Rite Aid for promoting true health! F*ck Big Pharma - I say we force-feed anyone who complains all the meds they promote!

March 13 2012 at 11:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tomralley182

Number one, I am a Wellness Ambassador for Rite Aid. This writing is to bash a potentially awesome change in retail stores and people who are looking for medical advice. Our job is NOT to recommend such medicines and drugs, only steer them in the right direction. We are to supply a small amount of information and then we are to go to take the patient/customer to thepharmacist so they can further help the customer and give them the information they are looking for. They are the ones licensed for this. As far as vitamins, we are able to help create a vitamin regimen on our ipads and supply information on the vitamins and supplements as well. THE PHARMACIST is the one who we lead the customers to when it gets to much into chemical reactions and mixing medicines and supplements together. I am one hundred percent against this article. My name is Tom Alley and I am a Wellness Ambassador for Rite Aid.

March 13 2012 at 9:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply