A large national chain of pharmacies is upsetting some residents in and around Highland County.
Walgreens recently purchased the Lukas Pharmacy in Lynchburg, West End Pharmacy in Wilmington and Main Street Pharmacy in Blanchester, then closed them. Walgreens also recently purchased several other small pharmacies in Ohio and then shuttered those.
“We acquired the prescription files and the inventory from seven REM pharmacies in Ohio,” Walgreens Corporate Spokesperson Kelli Teno said. “All of the files and prescriptions have been transferred to the nearest Walgreens pharmacy and a letter was sent to all of those patients the same day that the last of those pharmacies closed on Oct. 31 to let them know about the change” to provide “minimal disruption to those customers impacted. We look forward to inviting them into our pharmacies.
“This was an asset purchase, so we purchased their files and then they closed the stores. I really can’t provide a lot more on the background, what happened there, for public disclosure.”
She pointed out that for former Main Street Pharmacy customers, “the distance to the nearest Walgreens is twelve-and-a-half miles,” and for former West End Pharmacy customers, it’s 17 miles.
“We look forward to welcoming them at our pharmacies and hope that they find value in our services and products that we can provide,” Teno added. “We hope it’s minimal disruption to those. We have a number of locations in Ohio so our goal is to provide as minimal disruption to access to their medicines as possible.”
Mark Kratzer owns Downtown Drug of Hillsboro, as well as Kratzer’s Hometown Pharmacy of Wilmington, Town Drug of Sabina, and Barr’s Hometown Pharmacy of Xenia. He said he’s actively doing what he can to help locals put in a pinch while also working with legislators across Ohio pushing back at mega-companies that are reducing pharmacy options for Ohio residents.
Kratzer said that in the weeks since the Lynchburg, Wilmington and Blanchester pharmacies were closed, “A number of people are calling and asking for their complete profiles to be transferred to our store. When they closed, no patient knew anything about what was going on.”
Kratzer, who is in the process of opening another pharmacy in Middletown as well as in Lebanon, said he was told by Lukas pharmacist Tom Black in Lynchburg that many of their now-former customers, especially the elderly, would not be able to drive to Hillsboro for their medications.
“He asked if we were willing to deliver to Lynchburg,” Kratzer said.
So he has begun free delivery to Lynchburg and to New Vienna “until I can get a pharmacy in there (Lynchburg),” and he is also doing free next-day delivery to Blanchester “until we see what we can do” additionally there.
Kratzer said, “We’re calling different Walgreens continuously; they call back and say, ‘I’ve got 300 profiles to send before yours. It doesn’t make any sense for Walgreens to purchase those three stores; they’re not going to retain any of these customers. Who is going to go that far to get their prescriptions?”
Readers share frustrations
On Monday the News Journal in Wilmington asked its readers who were formerly customers of the two closed Clinton County pharmacies to share their stories on Facebook, and how/when they found out their prescriptions had been transferred to out-of-county Walgreens pharmacies.
The emotions of those who shared their thoughts ranged from frustration to disbelief to anger.
• “The prescriptions were transferred to Walgreens in Xenia. When I called they had no idea where records were. Hope to transfer anywhere but Walgreens. I knew they bought West End but no communication from Walgreens at all.”
• “This was a nightmare!! My records were NEVER found! After a week I had to call my doctor to get a refill through him! I received a letter from Walgreens 15 days AFTER my pharmacy closed!”
• “Found out through Facebook, sent to Walgreens in Milford.”
• “Closed without notifying me at all. Still trying to get my medicine.”
• “I did get a letter from the Blan pharmacy, but it was already a done deal and unfortunately they were the only pharmacy in Blan or Wilmington to carry one of my particular meds. Now not sure what to do!”
• “I work on a daily basis with pharmacies for my clients and it has been such a nightmare to help them track records down. What I’ve seen from here in town is a lot of folks had their stuff sent to Xenia Walgreens.”
• “I can’t imagine the hardship this has caused those who can’t drive to these locations to get their meds, let alone try to figure out how to get them transferred. Thanks Kratzer’s for taking care of these folks.”
• “No notifications just went to pick up a script and the next day I’m driving to Mt. Repose in Milford to get my scripts. Was told today that Walgreens will no longer take my insurance as of Jan 1st. So aggravating.”
• “I happened to pick up a prescription at Main Street Pharmacy on the day they were closing. They informed me that all our family prescriptions were being transferred to the Milford. I called Kratzer’s and they took care of transferring all our family prescriptions and helped get a coupon to save us money. They were awesome and extremely helpful. Filled all the monthly prescriptions at no additional costs.”
• “My prescriptions were transferred to Walgreens and I was notified, however, they are not contracted with my insurance so I am using Blanchester CVS.”
• “I received a letter a week after West End closed. My Rx were sent to Xenia and they were unable to find my info. I transferred to Longs and they have been great.”
• “My prescription account was transferred to Walgreens in Xenia was notified after they transferred everything.”
• “Notified after they closed the door.”
• “We received a letter in the mail that our records were transferred to Walgreens in Xenia. They wouldn’t let us move them beforehand and now no records are found.”
Working with legislators
Kratzer said he has been working with Ohio legislators — initially now-former House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and currently State Sen. Steve Wilson (R-7th District) and Ohio Rep. Steve Lipps (R-62nd District) and others — and the Ohio Pharmacists Association against the alarming reduction of pharmacies in Ohio — down 208 in just the past three years.
“I think things will turn around with help of legislators at the state level. I think we’ll see a lot of changes next year,” Kratzer said. “We just have to knuckle down and keep fighting against corporate takeovers, low reimbursements, less staff, and lower pay” for pharmacists and techs.
And for the most important reason of all — customer safety.
”When you’re understaffed, you increase the risk of a miss-fill,” he added.