Cardinal Health steps up role to help get people vaccinated against the coronavirus


By Mark Williams - The Columbus Dispatch (TNS)



Cardinal Health, one of the nation’s biggest wholesale drug distributors, is prepping for what its CEO believes may be one of its biggest missions of all time: helping people get their Covid-19 vaccination.

“At the end of the day … our belief is that this is one of the most important events in the country’s history, and that bringing the full scale of the distribution capabilities of all the distributors to the market is going to make the most sense over the long term to be able to effectively distribute and get the vaccines to folks,” Cardinal Health CEO Mike Kaufmann told analysts Friday morning after the company released its second-quarter financial results. “And so, we continue to make sure that we’re doing all the things to make ourselves ready to be able to participate and help out however we can.”

To this point, the Dublin-based company has been working with the state to help with the logistics of distributing vaccines, including its OptiFreight Logistics business that arranges same-day delivery to locations throughout Ohio.

It also has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control to qualify more than 4,000 retail independent, small chain and long-term care pharmacy customers to participate in the vaccination effort.

Cardinal Health has not been involved so far on a national basis for distributing vaccines, but hopes it will be in coming weeks as vaccine production and shots get ramped up.

“We already do vaccines. Every single day we’re shipping vaccines,” Kaufmann said in an interview with The Dispatch.

Kaufmann said Cardinal Health believes it makes sense to get the entire supply chain involved in distributing vaccines. That would make it more cost-effective and safe, and build redundancy into the distribution network.

So far, only one of the big three distributors, McKesson, has been involved in moving vaccines.

“We continue to stay in touch with the (Biden) administration and provide advice and thoughts on the things that can be improved going forward,” he said.

Two of Cardinal Health’s biggest customers, Kroger and CVS, “are doing an excellent job of getting shots in arms,” Kaufmann said.

Cardinal Health’s results for the quarter show its business continues to be affected by the coronavirus.

The company’s wholesale drug business has been hurt by a decline in prescriptions, likely because patients still are not going back to the doctor the way they used to before the pandemic. Kauffman said he expects visits to the doctor will move toward pre-Covid levels later this year.

On the other side, the company’s medical products business has been helped by its manufacturing of personal protective equipment and its lab business, Cardinal Health said.

Add it together, and the result is a 3% drop in the company’s adjusted operating earnings to $628 million for the three months that ended Dec. 31.

Revenue rose 5% from the year-ago quarter to $41.5 billion.

Overall, Kaufmann said he was pleased with the quarter, in which adjusted earnings climbed 14% to $1.74 per share. The company also raised its profit outlook for the year.

“We help people with what matters,” he said. “We are essential to health care.”

The results topped Wall Street estimates. Despite that, Cardinal Health shares fell 3% Friday afternoon.

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By Mark Williams

The Columbus Dispatch (TNS)

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