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Patients anxious at pharmacy's closing

30-May-2007: For several years, Cindy Addis of Fort Wayne had purchased her prescription drugs at the Parkview Carew Pharmacy. The hairstylist is self-employed with no health insurance; the rising cost of buying her own insurance forced her to drop it.

On Monday, Addis contemplated what she will do now that the pharmacy, in the Carew Medical Building at 1818 Carew St., has closed. Last month Parkview Hospital, which owns the pharmacy, announced it would close May 18 after 14 years in business.

"Carew was the cheapest place I could get my prescriptions," Addis said. She's already checked on one nongeneric drug price at Wal-Mart. "One of my prescriptions at Wal-Mart is $75. I could get it at Carew for under $30."

Carew's closing leaves only three independent community pharmacies in Fort Wayne: the Medicine Chest, 2803 E. State Blvd.; Pharmacy of Canterbury, 5715 St. Joe Road; and Community Care Pharmacy, 2700 S. Lafayette St. Custom Rx, a specialized pharmacy that compounds drugs for individual needs, is at 414 E. Dupont Road.

Wal-Mart, Meijer and Target last year announced they would begin offering some generic drugs for $4, part of the reason Carew Pharmacy could no longer compete, Parkview officials said.

Addis said she started going to the Carew Pharmacy after several of her clients told her about it.

"Nobody will match their price," she said. "In fact, the last day I was in (the Carew Pharmacy), a woman from the Decatur area said she'd been coming up here for years."

Unlike other community pharmacies outside of hospitals, until September, Carew Pharmacy was licensed as a wholesale, not retail, pharmacy. Drugs were priced significantly lower than retail pharmacies can sell them.

Parkview spokeswoman Danette Fitzgerald said the decision to close the pharmacy was made because of regulatory and financial concerns, as well as changes under the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. It had nothing, she said, to do with Parkview moving many of its services away from the Randallia campus to Parkview North, at Dupont Road and Interstate 69.

Federal regulatory changes, including increases in licensing fees for wholesale pharmacies, prompted Parkview to drop its wholesale license, Fitzgerald said.

New regulations also require wholesale pharmacies to document "drug pedigrees," or the chain of custody of a drug from the manufacturer to the end user. The regulations help prevent sales of counterfeit drugs, which have been on the rise in recent years. Typically, intermediary purchasers will repackage drugs and sell them to another party; sometimes the drugs get mislabeled or are not stored properly.

Additional record-keeping and staff would have been required for Carew Pharmacy to implement such procedures, Fitzgerald said, costs Parkview couldn't bear. Other financial considerations entered into the closing, as well, she said.

"This was the only retail pharmacy Parkview had. Just like the smaller independent pharmacies, it was very difficult to compete," Fitzgerald said.

Lastly, when Medicare Part D took effect in January 2006, new regulations required pharmacies to charge the average wholesale price for a drug minus 15 percent, plus a small dispensing fee.

"Commercial pharmacies have a variety of ways to make money," Fitzgerald said. "They have photo business and cigarettes. We don't have enough other business to recoup the costs."

Carew Pharmacy has encouraged customers to transfer their prescriptions to their neighborhood retail pharmacy or one of the grocery stores offering pharmacy services.

John Stenger, owner of the Medicine Chest, anticipates getting some of Carew Pharmacy's business.He said his pharmacy's quality and personalized service help retain loyal customers.

Meanwhile, Addis is hoping most of the medicine she takes will be on one of the large retail stores' $4 list.

"I'm going to have to take a (drug) list from Wal-Mart to my doctor and have him go over it to tell me what I can get there. I don't know what I'll do about the one (expensive, nongeneric) drug. I can't afford a $50 cost increase."

Source: Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

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