Nov
21
2019
Yellow Springs
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H 39 • L 39
From the Print

Pharmacy concerns— Delays in drug orders cited

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Two recent key resignations at the downtown pharmacy have brought to light concerns about the drug store’s ability to fill the prescriptions of its customers.

The shop’s full-time pharmacist-manager, Sharon Emery, and part-time pharmacist Emma Robinow have both quit. Emery’s last day was Friday, Oct. 18, and Robinow’s was the following day.

While Emery couldn’t be reached for comment before press time, Robinow said  this week that she resigned after five years at the pharmacy because “it just became impossible to do my job.”

Specifically, she didn’t feel she had the resources to effectively meet the prescription needs of the pharmacy’s patients.

The local drug store, at the corner of Xenia Avenue and Glen Street, is owned by the Tampa, Fla.-based Benzer Pharmacy network. The chain acquired the former Town Drug in January and changed the pharmacy’s signs to the Benzer logo this summer. A drug store has been in operation nearly continuously at  that location for about 90 years.

Robinow said the pharmacy started experiencing issues with “inventory availability” in May.

“We were unable to order medications from our main wholesaler, which limited what we were able to provide to our patients,” she said.

“At first, I just attributed these to growing pains that would likely resolve within a few weeks, but this didn’t happen,” she added.

Difficulties in ordering from the wholesaler increased, she said.

“We went from being able to order … daily — which is normal for many pharmacies — to once a week, to once every few weeks, and it was generally unpredictable,” Robinow said.

Several local pharmacy customers, apparently unaware of the recent personnel changes there, responded to a Facebook post on Tuesday expressing frustration with their inability to get some of the medicines prescribed by their doctors at the Benzer location.

Lisa Crosswhite wrote that while her family had patronized the local pharmacy for years, they were considering switching to Kroger.

In responding to a followup email from the News, Crosswhite wrote that her family’s concerns are “small so far,” but “they’re starting to add up.”

Detailing some of their recent experiences, Crosswhite wrote: “My husband’s prescription expired, and his doctor had trouble reactivating it with them. It took days. They [the doctor’s office] had to contact them [the pharmacy] multiple times. Quite a few times they didn’t have the meds and had to give us partial prescriptions, meaning more trips down there.”

Others on the Facebook thread shared stories of having to wait days to get their medications, or getting partial prescriptions and needing to return later for the rest. At the same time, a couple of people wrote that they haven’t experienced any problems.

Robinow said that one of the staff’s solutions when unable to fill prescriptions was to transfer them to another pharmacy, which was frustrating.

“As a pharmacist of a small town pharmacy, I worry for the health and safety of our community,” she said. “I worry about the people who are unable to get the medication they need in a timely manner and about the impact on the village.”

She also noted that some customers “are physically unable to leave town to get their medication from another pharmacy.”

Robinow said that the most common medications affected included refrigerated drugs, including insulin; controlled medications, often pain related; and brand-name drugs.

Reached by phone earlier this week, Benzer’s regional manager in Ohio, Christopher Lenz, said that he had forwarded the News’ email request for a comment about the prescription issues to Benzer’s corporate office and that he had nothing to say.

Concerning the resignation of Emery and Robinow, Lenz said that a new pharmacist-manager would be starting work in Yellow Springs effective Wednesday, Oct. 23. He identified the new hire as Jeremy Nestor, whom Lenz said has pharmaceutical experience in the Yellow Springs area. A floating pharmacist was in the store Monday and Tuesday.

The News’ request for comment from the pharmacy’s wholesaler was not fulfilled before press time.

Prior to Benzer’s acquisition of Town Drug in January, the local pharmacy was owned for 12 years by the Springboro, Ohio-based REM Corporation, which purchased the store in 2007. Until then, the pharmacy had been independently owned, first as Erbaugh Drug Store, from the 1920s into the ‘50s, and then as Erbaugh and Johnson Drugs until 1996, when then owners Carl and Sue Johnson retired.

After sitting empty for a year, the building, owned by the Odd Fellows, was leased to Fred Messina, the owner of a pharmacy in Jamestown called Town Drug. Messina brought the Town Drug name with him to Yellow Springs, and the REM Corp. retained that name after its purchase.

The store has seen several turnovers in the full-time pharmacist-manager position since Janice Blandford retired in August 2018. Amy Kelly, a graduate of Cedarville University, was the immediate replacement for Blandford. Kelly left in June this year, about 10 months after her hire and six months after the store’s sale to Benzer. Sharon Emery, who came to Yellow Springs from Columbus, where she worked for the CVS chain, began her approximately four-month tenure after Kelly’s departure.

The privately owned Benzer Pharmacy, founded in 2009 and formerly known as Rx Care Pharmacy, has 82 corporate-owned and 34 franchise locations in 29 states, according to the company’s website.

According to industry reports, the company has been making new acquisitions steadily for several years, growing from 40 locations in 2015. The chain opened its newest site in Columbus this past summer.

Robinow, who grew up in the village and completed her pharmacology residency at the former Town Drug under the mentorship of the late Tim Rogers, before being hired there in 2014, said the decision to resign was difficult.

“I wrestled with my decision to leave for months,” she said.

“Being a pharmacist at Town Drug was my dream job. I felt so lucky to be able to work in the community that I grew up in and serve some of the same patients that my grandfather [the late Dr. Meinhard Robinow] served.”

She worries about abandoning her patients.

“Even though I no longer work at [Benzer], I care about the villagers and think it’s important for people to know that there are options if the medication they need is not readily available.”

She encourages anyone with questions or concerns to reach out to their healthcare providers, including the staff at the former Town Drug, whom she said are caring and hard-working and will do everything they can to help their customers.

Contact: csimmons@ysnews.com

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