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NACDS honors Merlo for lifetime achievement

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Calls pharmacy 'one of the most noble professions'

ARLINGTON, Va.  — Larry Merlo, who stepped down as president and CEO  of CVS Health in February, on Wednesday received the Sheldon W. Fantle Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

Larry Merlo

Larry Merlo


The honor, which recognizes individuals whose accomplishments and contributions to the chain drug industry over the course of their career merit special recognition, was presented on the closing day of the NACDS Annual Meeting.

“If I had to do it all over again,” Merlo said, “I’d pick pharmacy as my profession. I have always believed it is one of the most noble professions, and I don’t see that changing. There is no bigger purpose than to help people get and stay on their path to better health.”

Over his four-decade career, he said he saw two keys that will continue to be important to the future success of the industry. The first is the role of the pharmacist in the community. “There is no replacement for the personal interaction and relationship between the patient and the pharmacist,” he remarked. “And I remember the debates we had at CVS and answering the question, are we a convenience store with a pharmacy offering or a pharmacy that extends that customer relationship into the front store? At CVS we answered that question, extending that relationship into the front store categories of health, beauty, personal care, while continuing to offer elements of convenience. And all of this has allowed us to increase the focus on improving the health of those we serve, whether it’s those living with and managing chronic disease or helping people start and stay adherent to their drug regimens or helping people quit tobacco.”

The second key is innovation, he commented, saying the opportunity to satisfy unmet needs with the consumer and  patient in mind “places a real premium on the interaction with suppliers in developing joint goals and objectives. It also speaks to the role of industry in working with the government at both federal and state levels” to allow “pharmacists and nurse practitioners to practice to the top of their license.”

Holding up a COVID vaccine vial, he said it exemplified “the role of pharmacists and technicians today, helping Americans through the pandemic, putting them one step closer to the people and the activities that they have missed over the past year.”

NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson told Merlo, “I speak for your many friends that this honor is well earned and deserved. I enjoyed working with you when you were the NACDS chairman and during your service on the NACDS board of directors.”

Merlo led CVS from 2011 until February 1 of this year,  after beginning his career with the company as a community pharmacist more than 40 years ago. He will continue to serve on CVS’ board of directors until the company’s next Annual Meeting of stockholders in May, and as strategic advisor to assist with the leadership transition until his retirement on May 31.


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