CVS profits surge during pandemic

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Drugstore chain CVS Health saw its first quarter profits jump 41 percent as Americans began preparing for the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.

Retail sales at CVS propelled gains for the first three months of the year, when the outbreak prompted panic purchases of items such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper.

“When facing any health crisis, including this pandemic, we’re uniquely positioned to understand consumer and patient needs and how to address them,” Larry Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health, said in a statement Wednesday. “This includes increasing access to medicine and virtual care, and testing thousands for the virus every day to ready our country to reopen safely.”

The frantic buying earlier this year led to shortages of masks, cleaning products and even some medications at national retail chains. The Food and Drug Administration reported its first drug shortage in February caused by the coronavirus.

In response to the national health emergency, CVS has waived all copays related to COVID-19 diagnostic testing for insured members and any fees related to home delivery for prescriptions and front store products.

Walgreens, a top competitor to CVS, hasn’t released its first quarter earnings but noted a sales increase of 3.7 percent, or $35.8 billion, for three months ended Feb. 29 compared to the same period last year.

Revenue for CVS pharmacy services rose 4.2 percent in the first quarter compared with the same period in 2019. CVS reported that some of those sales included spikes in 90-day prescriptions and early medication refills to prepare for COVID-19.

But the strong sales aren’t expected to keep surging.

In April, there were signs of slowed foot traffic as stay-at-home orders took effect across the country. Fewer doctors appointments led to decreased demand for some prescriptions.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 drug stores Pandemic panic buying Pharmacies
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