For Immediate Release
January 20, 2010
Contact Information

Walt Cherniak

(BPRW) Aetna Joins Forces with Walgreens, United Way to Educate Public about Vitamin D Deficiencies

-- Columbia, S.C.-Area Pharmacies to Participate in Giveaway Program --

BLACK PR WIRE) (January 20, 2010)COLUMBIA, S.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE) -- Aetna (NYSE: AET) and Walgreens announced today that they have joined forces to educate people about the need to take in adequate levels of Vitamin D. The two organizations are working with United Way of the Midlands on a Vitamin D giveaway program being piloted in Richland and Lexington counties in South Carolina. They will be handing out coupons that residents can redeem at Walgreens stores for free 100-day Vitamin D supplies. The program will begin Jan. 23 and run until April 24, or as long as supplies last.
The Vitamin D program is being funded through a $55,000 Aetna grant; a $50,000 grant from Walgreens; and a $400 grant from the U.S. Army. Aetna Pharmacy Management is contributing an additional $5,000 to support the effort. 

Aetna and Walgreens have produced print and radio advertisements in the Columbia area, and have mailed flyers to county residents, advising them of the giveaway. In addition, they have been educating area health care providers about using Vitamin D to promote better health. Coupons for free, 100-day supplies of Vitamin D will be placed at the check-out counters at Walgreens stores. There is a limit of one supply per family. 

Vitamin D is an essential part of good health, said Dr. Edmund Pezalla, head of Aetna’s Pharmacy operation. It helps people absorb calcium, which strengthens bones and teeth and helps nerves and muscles work correctly. 

Unfortunately, three out of four American teens and adults do not receive the amount of Vitamin D believed to be necessary for optimal health. Vitamin D deficiency can negatively affect bone development, immune function and heart health. 

This is a serious health concern, and one Aetna cares deeply about, Dr. Pezalla said. When we saw an opportunity to make a positive difference, we pursued it aggressively. 

Vitamin D deficiency has a strong genetic and biological component. This vitamin is absorbed from the suns ultraviolet rays, and many people can easily absorb the amount they need each day. But darker skin blocks more of the suns ultraviolet rays, and as a result, African Americans are the group at highest risk for Vitamin D deficiency. Hispanics face similar risks.
"Our relationship with Aetna has provided a great opportunity for our community locations to give back to local residents," said Richard Ashworth, Walgreens market vice president. "Our pharmacists are available across more than 7,150 communities to provide pharmacy and health and wellness services."
The population in Richland and Lexington counties is approximately 45 percent African American, which is one reason the area was chosen for the pilot program. Aetna’s Columbia, S.C. office will serve as the local headquarters for the program. 

United Way recognizes that good health and wellness are essential not only to personal quality of life but also to productivity and engagement in the larger community, said Mac Bennett, president & CEO of United Way of the Midlands. Achieving the goal of a healthy community requires us all to become more aware of health risks and the potential effects they have on ourselves and others, and working to change policies and practices that will enable more people to live healthy lives. 

About Walgreens
Walgreens ( is the nation’s largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2009 sales of $63 billion. The company operates 7,147 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Walgreens provides the most convenient access to consumer goods and services and cost-effective pharmacy, health and wellness services in America through its retail drugstores, Walgreens Health Services division and Walgreens Health and Wellness division. Walgreens Health Services assists pharmacy patients and prescription drug and medical plans through Walgreens Health Initiatives Inc. (a pharmacy benefit manager); Walgreens Mail Service Inc.; Walgreens Home Care Inc.; Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy LLC; and Senior Med LLC (a pharmacy provider to long-term care facilities). Walgreens Health and Wellness Division includes Take Care Health Systems, the largest and most comprehensive manager of worksite health and wellness centers and in-store convenient care clinics, with more than 700 locations throughout the country. 

About Aetna
Aetna is one of the nations leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 36.3 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, see
Statements made in the press release have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This program is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment by a physician or other health care professional.