I want to respond to your Sept. 4 cover story on franchising. In January of 2003, my husband and I purchased a Medicap store grossing $2.2 million. Gross profit margins were 25%-30%. Paying franchise royalties was a bite, but manageable. My customer base was 80%-90% cash-paying seniors over 65. In May 2005 we opened a second store. It did incredibly well for a new store, and being part of a franchise was a big help in getting a new store open. But everything changed in January 2006, when Part D hit. My two stores together took a net loss of $120,000 during the first two months of Part D. I had royalties to pay and a high debt load because both of my stores were still new, and by Aug 11, 2006, both my stores were closed.
Based on my experience and in today's pharmacy market, I would never recommend joining a franchise that takes a royalty from gross sales. I know my cost of goods was less than that of the independent who bought my open inventory, but I also was told by the independent who bought my second store's files that he was getting 50 cents more per Part D Humana claim than we were. That's a big difference when 50% of my Part D was Humana. Was the franchise worth the monthly royalty? I can't say for sure, but I know that if franchises don't rethink their structure, the number of franchise locations is going to steadily decline in this Part D era.
Regarding your Sept. 18 article on Plan B going OTC, the pharmacy community is not solidly behind the switch. I can name many pharmacists who are appalled that they have to deal with Plan B, since it has the possibility of blocking implantation of fertilized eggs.
How pharmacy has changed
Having started in pharmacy in 1955, I have seen the erosion of pharmacy practice from the point that one-third of all Rxs were compounded by the pharmacist to the point where now they would like to do away with the practice in pharmacies or make them be licensed as manufacturers.
What is there so unique about durable medical equipment that a pharmacy (that has been selling equipment for 75 years) now needs to be accredited? When I look at the drugs that once were Rx-only, because of potency and side effects, now being sold in grocery stores and gas stations, I wonder who controls the oversight of our profession.
Have you noticed that the pharmacist, who once was No. 1 in professional ethics, now has slipped? Could it be we are now looked upon the same as the man behind the meat counter or dairy department in over half of the "grocery stores" in the United States? I remember the day the pharmacist at the corner drugstore could talk to his patrons and knew more about their families than what medication the computer showed they were taking.
Pharmacy must take a stand
Medicare Part D does nothing but take money away from the pharmacy that provides the health care. It then gives this money to the pharmaceutical company and to the insurance company that processes the claim.
I work for a large chain, but if I were an independent pharmacy owner, I would not accept Part D. In fact, if I were to open my own pharmacy, I might not take any insurance. Why should a pharmacy pay a processor for the privilege of receiving a below-operating-cost payment? Unless pharmacy takes a stand and refuses these horrible plans, I'm afraid the days of pharmacy are numbered.