CVS Health closes 30 hearing centres as OTC rules begin to reshape market


CVS Pharmacy
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The well-known US pharmacy outfit CVS has announced the closure of all of its 30 hearing centres as it remodels its health offer ahead of arriving over-the-counter (OTC) sales for devices.

The Rhode Island-based company told the US portal Hearing Health and Technology Matters that it is shifting its audiology strategy to CVS Pharmacy outlets as these are better placed for the evolution in hearing aid sales. All stores will close by March 30, the firm announced.

CVS has more than 9,800 stores across the US. But, as the Hearing Health portal points out, hearing aid retailing in the US is dominated by the more than 440 centres owned and run by the multinational Costco and its big-box formula of large stores and discount prices.

CVS' retreat comes only four years after it ventured into audiology services in 2015. “The FDA is preparing to approve lower-cost, over-the-counter hearing devices in the near future, and new technology is emerging to enable self-serve hearing testing and care,” said Erin Pensa, Senior Director of Retail Communications at CVS.

The currrent US legal situation obliges anyone wanting to buy a hearing aid to undergo an examination by a licensed professional. The new US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules, developed since Congress asked the agency in 2017 to find a new framework for more affordable and accessible over-the-counter hearing aids, must lift this restriction, while current complexities are begging to be simplified: for example, the "direct-to-consumer" (rather than over-the-counter) definition applied to amplifying products means that FDA-approval was already given to Bose last October for self-fitting hearing aids, now on the market.

Meanwhile, the pharmacy/drugstore goods market also faces strong competition from Amazon. This has led to CVS expanding its offer by piloting the idea of HealthHubs, which offer additional walk-in health services such as blood pressure testing and yoga.

Source: Hearing Health & Technology Matters