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Walgreen co. is making its first foray into mail order with Vitamins, Herbals & More, a catalog sent to members of the pharmacy chain's Healthcare Plus division.

The introductory spring edition went to 1 million members of Healthcare Plus, a 15-year-old mail-in pharmacy service offered through participating healthcare plans.

Vitamins, Herbals & More offers its namesake products as well as over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. It also carries ads for several big-name OTC brands.

Walgreen plans another edition of the catalog this year, and with the first mailing, a major pharmaceutical retailer enters a burgeoning segment. Vitamins alone, including herbal supplements, grew 24.1% in 1998 to $3.13 billion in sales in mass outlet retail locations, according to Information Resources Inc.


Healthcare Plus surveyed its members last year "to determine how we could serve them better," a spokeswoman said. "They told us that they'd like to buy natural-care products and OTCs through mail service and that prompted Vitamins, Herbals & More."

The catalog features Walgreens-branded products, as well as brand names such as the Accu-Check Advantage diabetes care kit and NasalCrom nasal spray. A handful of advertisers appear in the first issue, including SmithKline Beecham's Nicorette gum, and Warner-Lambert Co.'s Lubriderm lotion, Sudafed decongestant and Zantac 75 heartburn tablets.

Vitamins, Herbals & More was enclosed in prescription orders sent to 1 million Healthcare Plus customers. The catalog appears to skew to an older age demographic, though the mailing wasn't limited solely to seniors. Four out of nine models featured on the catalog's cover look as though they could qualify for senior citizen status, and pictures within its pages also depict more mature models engaging in active outdoor pursuits.

Walgreen may have powerful company soon in the mail-order OTC market. Reader's Digest Association, with its own hefty database, in March announced aggressive expansion plans in several areas beyond publishing, including an intent to

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