Revolutionizing America’s Drugstores

Issue Date: 
February 23, 2015

When CVS Health announced in February 2014 that it would pull all tobacco products from its more than 7,600 U.S. stores—the first national pharmacy chain to do so—many lauded the decision as one of the boldest moves a major corporation has made in recent memory. The president and chief executive officer of CVS Health, Larry J. Merlo, referred to the organization’s stance as simply “the right thing to do.” 

Larry J. MerloMerlo (PHARM ’78) will discuss CVS Health’s decision on tobacco, the organization’s steps toward broader health services, and the ever-changing landscape of the U.S. health care system, during the latest installment of the University of Pittsburgh’s American Experience Distinguished Lecture Series. Merlo’s lecture titled “The Revolution at the Corner Drugstore,” will be delivered at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25 in Ballroom B of the University Club, 123 University Pl., Oakland. The event is free and open to the public; due to limited seating, registration is required. 

“For more than 35 years, Larry J. Merlo has stood as a distinguished representative of the pharmacy profession and all that the profession offers in terms of improving health outcomes and lowering overall health care costs for American citizens,” said Edward L. McCord, director of programming and special projects in Pitt’s University Honors College and director of the Dick Thornburgh Forum for Law and Public Policy, which both sponsor the lecture series. “The American Experience Distinguished Lecture Series was established in Pittsburgh more than 40 years ago to enlighten the citizenry of Southwestern Pennsylvania on the great traditions of political and economic thought in the United States. Mr. Merlo is a fine addition to a remarkable list of speakers that has included former U.S. presidents, former state governors, and former Pitt chancellors.”

A Pitt alumnus and trustee, Merlo has served as president of CVS Health since May 2010 and as chief executive officer since March 2011. As an executive at CVS Health since 1990, Merlo has played an integral role in the organization’s growth into the largest pharmacy health care provider in the United States. 

The White House recently recognized Merlo as a leader in the pharmacy care field by inviting him to sit in First Lady Michelle Obama’s box during the 2015 State of the Union Address. Merlo also has been honored as the 2014 Responsible CEO of the Year by Corporate Responsibility Magazine as well as the Pharmacy Innovator of the Year from Chain Drug Review

Merlo earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Pitt’s School of Pharmacy in 1978. He was elected to Pitt’s Board of Trustees in 2013. In 2012, he was awarded the University’s prestigious 225th Anniversary Medallion, which recognized alumni whose achievements have brought honor to Pitt and whose efforts contributed to the University’s continued progress. Merlo also was the recipient of Pitt’s 2010 School of Pharmacy Distinguished Alumni Award and was named a Legacy Laureate by the University in 2008. 

Merlo and his wife, Pitt alumnus Lee Ann Merlo (A&S ’77), have endowed the Larry and Lee Ann Merlo Student Leadership Fund Award in Pitt’s School of Pharmacy. The award provides need-based assistance to students enrolled in the school’s Doctor of Pharmacy Program. 

This American Experience Distinguished Lecture is cosponsored by Pitt’s School of Pharmacy and Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. The American Experience lecture program was created by the late Pitt faculty member Robert G. Hazo to offer Pittsburghers the opportunity to gain insight into political and economic thought with the intent of enlightening the public’s political discourse.