Originally created 04/21/00

National drug company buys local independent pharmacy



There's one less independent pharmacy in Augusta.

Drug store giant CVS Pharmacy has purchased Thrifty Rexall Drugs at Washington Square shopping center on Washington Road.

Pharmacy customers were notified by mail this week that their prescription records have been moved to the CVS store at 250 Boy Scout Road.

Tommy Mansfield, former Thrifty Rexall owner and pharmacist, is now a staff pharmacist at the Boy Scout Road store, CVS regional pharmacy supervisor Ron Hardin said.

"He's relocating his business into ours," Mr. Hardin said. "We're happy to have him on board."

Thrifty Rexall's phone calls are forwarded to CVS. Signs on the door instruct customers to go to the Boy Scout Road pharmacy. CVS employees inside the store were transferring inventory Thursday.

The postal facility inside the store will remain open.

Thrifty Rexall was a chain of franchise drug stores popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Mr. Mansfield, who has owned and operated the Augusta store for two decades, kept the name in place after the franchise company dissolved.

Rhode Island-based CVS is a leading drug store chain, with more than 4,100 stores in the Eastern United States filling more than 251 million prescriptions.

The typical independent pharmacy, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association, has $1.6 million in annual sales and fills 42,811 prescriptions.

Large chains such as CVS, Eckerd and Walgreens have expanded rapidly in recent years, constructing large stand-alone stores and acquiring customers from independent pharmacists.

"In the early '70s, there were probably 40 independent pharmacies in the area," said Earl Wright, owner of Surrey Center Pharmacy in Augusta and a pharmacist since 1971. "Now, in Richmond and Columbia counties, you have less than a dozen."

The National Pharmacists Association reports more than 1,500 independents have disappeared since 1992, mostly because managed care plans have reduced payments for prescription drugs. And not all managed care companies negotiate contracts with independents.

Independents sell medicine at chain store prices, but their low volume makes profitability difficult.

"If you've got an AIDS patient with a $500 prescription, your profit will be $4 at the most if they've got an insurance card," said Ralph Wong, owner of Brynwood Pharmacy in Augusta. "It's not worth opening a pharmacy anymore. You could stick your money in a savings account and get more return."

Reach

Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486.