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Originally published August 8 2008

CVS Pharmacies to Open More In-Store Clinics to Diagnose Patients, Prescribe and Sell Drugs on Site

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Following a regulatory decision by the State of Massachusetts, CVS has announced plans to open more than two dozen private health care clinics inside its Massachusetts drug stores in the next year.

CVS MinuteClinics are for-profit health clinics contained within CVS drug stores. Such clinics have become increasingly common across the United States in recent years, and CVS operates 466 MinuteClinics in 25 states. In response to the new Massachusetts regulatory rules, the pharmacy chain plans to open 100 to 120 clinics within the next three to five years.

The state's Public Health Council, which sets policy for the Department of Public Health, recently voted to allow the operation of such clinics for the first time. While critics have accused private clinics in drug stores of conflicts of interest and of disrupting the long-term doctor-patient relationship, the council ultimately ruled that the clinics will serve a pressing need by expanding access to health care in the face of a shortage of primary care practitioners.

CVS's in-store clinics in Connecticut typically charge $59 to $69 for a single visit, which lasts about 15 minutes. In many states, health insurance covers this cost.

"If they're well-run and they stay within certain parameters, [the clinics] fill a need," said Ronald Preston, a former top state health official.

Massachusetts has imposed a series of regulations on the clinics in order for them to operate. First of all, they can only treat minor health problems, including sore throats, ear infections and poison ivy exposure. The clinics will be prohibited from treating emergencies or chronic conditions, such as diabetes or cancer. Clinics will be required to have hand sanitizer available on-site or nearby.

The nurse practitioners who staff the clinics are already required to have access to a doctor for phone consultations. The Massachusetts' rules further require that they be qualified to treat children, and that they be trained to identify cases where a doctor or emergency room is needed.

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