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A new emphasis has been placed on local pharmacies and pharmacists as the COVID-19 pandemic moves toward one year of changing the everyday lives of just about everyone.
Locally, pharmacies have seen an uptick in delivery service and in significance as it relates to being able to provide medications to customers in a timely and efficient manner.
The pandemic has had a major impact on the pharmaceutical industry. The global health crisis continues to emphasize the role of pharmacists as a significant player on the front-line care team. It also has heightened awareness of long-standing issues and problems with drug shortages, drug recalls and drug diversion.
Pharmacists continue to address the challenges and adjust to the “new normal.”
Pharmacies and pharmacist are no longer perceived as simply distributors of medication. While nurses and doctors – who are overwhelmed in many cases — remain busy and focused on combating COVID-19, pharmacists are taking more of an active role in providing counsel, education and support to patients who have concerns about the virus or other health issues.
“There’s been a lot of changes,” said Scott Adamson, owner of McCracken Pharmacy in Waynesburg. “The biggest (change) for us is in delivery service. We added another (delivery) car to our arsenal. It just made sense. As we get closer to another possible lockdown, delivery has become a big thing.”
Adamson, in an effort to get in front of the pandemic and to ensure consistent and reliable service, employed a new strategy with pharmacy personnel.
“We split the staff and created two teams,” Adamson said, “in case someone came down with the virus. It’s a two-team approach. On one week on and off the next. This ensures we remain open to provide services to the customers and the community.”
Adamson said McCracken Pharmacy “is vying to be one of the” COVID-19 vaccination pharmacies. The business currently provides flu and shingles vaccinations.
“We do a lot of injectable vaccinations,” he said. “We have a large offering, an array of vaccines. We push delivery and do a lot of curbside as we don’t have drive- through service.”
Erich Cushey, who owns Curtis Pharmacy with his wife, Tina, has operations in Claysville and Washington. He said business has picked up as the year has unfolded. Curtis Pharmacy also increased deliveries and early-on in the pandemic utilized curbside service and drive-through capabilities to serve customers.
“Our doors were closed the first couple of months,” Cushey said. “It was amazing the difference in the location when we could open our doors again. We still saw a lot of curbside and drive through business in the Washington store but in Claysville, the people couldn’t wait to get back in the store.”
Cushey said Curtis Pharmacy worked hard to get customers all their medications at once so their visits could be minimized, and it could be more convenient for them.
“It is a medication synchronization program where we could fill each customer at the same time to either lessen the trips they had to make or the deliveries we make,” he said.
“Certainly, there’s been a challenge with the front-end product the over-the-counter products, vitamins and the gifts we have available. With less foot traffic the products don’t move as well.”
Cushey has implemented a “Pack My Meds” program and is offering Christmas merchandise online, which also can be delivered to customers. He also is vying to be able to provide COVID-19 vaccinations.
“My guess is we’ll be round three,” Cushey said. “We’re going to provide them in a social hall or fire hall set up.”
Chris Vermilya, owner of The Medicine Shoppe in Washington, said there had been a “trickle down” impact early on in the pandemic as doctors were not seeing patients and were not renewing prescriptions.
“Older people are afraid, and they are not out as much,” Vermilya said. “The volume is different. People aren’t going out, not wanting to take chances. Our deliver has increased. But some people would rather not take their medications right now than not go out.”
Vermilya said he’s also seen an uptick in demand for Zinc, and vitamins. He said he doesn’t like wearing a mask, but said it is necessary and appropriate to protect others.
“People are dying,” Vermilya said. “It’s common sense to wear a mask.
“Pharmacy, in general, is weathering the storm. We didn’t have to close. We’ve been busier at times more than others. People understand and have adapted. I go to work, the grocery store and go home. We just have to be smart.”
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