The Medicine Shoppe, the last independent pharmacy in Petaluma, has announced that it’s closing effective October, 9, citing the loss of contracts with Sonoma County and other large employers.
The decision to close the Washington Street pharmacy, open for more than 30 years, was announced Wednesday by owner Jamil Harb in a letter to customers.
“Over the last four years, the competitive pressures in pharmacy have taken a toll on our ability to maintain this pharmacy as a viable business,” Harb wrote.
“The decision of several local payers, including the County of Sonoma, that have mandated their employees to obtain prescriptions from out of town and out of state mail order companies, were the biggest culprit…This, along with decreased reimbursements from insurance companies, have caused me to make one of the most difficult decisions in my life.”
The news comes as shock to customers, many of whom viewed pharmacy staff as family and appreciated their willingness to fulfill complex orders. That includes preparing compound prescriptions, in which different prescriptions are combined or their strengths altered to accommodate a patient’s needs, the only pharmacy in Petaluma to offer such a service.
The impending closure means that patients relying on unique formulas will now have to travel to Santa Rosa or San Rafael to obtain compounded prescriptions.
“It's a real bummer,” said Petaluma resident Christopher Fisher. “My wife and I, and many other families we know moved over to the Medicine Shoppe in recent years, specifically to support local alternatives to corporate and chain stores, which send most or their proceeds out of the community. As far as I can tell, there are no more local alternatives for pharmaceuticals, a sad state of affairs for a community of 60,000."
Owner Jamil Harb was out of the country and not available to comment, but head pharmacist Alvin Lee said that seven employees will lose their jobs as a result of the closure. More than that, Lee bemoaned the closure of a small, independent pharmacy that has had a hard time competing with giants like CVS and Walgreens.
“Small, independent pharmacies go out of their way to accommodate their customers, but they are also a dying breed,” Lee said. “We don’t pump out 1,000 prescriptions a day while trying to cut labor. Imagine trying to find time to consult a patient when the demand at a chain requires your time to be spent more on filling. We staff enough so that we get prescriptions done so the pharmacist can spend time looking at interactions and optimizing therapy. At CVS and the national chains, it’s all about the numbers.”
Despite the closure of the brick and mortar location, Lee wants to continue offering consulations to all existing customers via his website www.pharmycare.com, built originally to consult the pharmacy's diabetic patients.
Through the site, patients will be able to get online consultations about pharmacy-related issues and obtain general health information.
Did you get your prescriptions at Medicine Shoppe? How will the closure impact you?