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Customers Seek Alternatives To Closed Pharmacies

Signs posted outside the closed Williams Community Pharmacy on Pershing Avenue informed customers that their prescription records were transferred to Walgreens. photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
January 04, 2012
With the sudden closing of three Williams Community Pharmacy stores on Nov. 29, former customers in the West End and University City are scrambling to find alternatives.

Regular customers of the Williams Community Pharmacy, 7010 Pershing Ave. at the corner of Forest Park Parkway and Big Bend Boulevard, and Prescriptions Plus, 5 Maryland Plaza, learned Nov. 30 that the stores had closed and their prescriptions transferred to Walgreens.

"This is a huge loss," wrote nearby resident Nicki Dwyer on her blog. "It seems to me that a walkable, urban neighborhood such as ours would and should support a local pharmacy."

Walgreen Co. of Deerfield, Ill., purchased the three stores from Brett Williams, closed the stores and transferred all prescriptions to the Walgreen database without any prior notice to customers. Walgreen officials have said they have no plans to operate stores at those locations. The third store sold was in Clarkson Square in Chesterfield.

Williams' father, Maurice Williams, opened the original University City store in 1952. Brett Williams also owns Ladue Pharmacy, 9832 Clayton Road, with his brother, Rick. That store remains open and operated by Williams family.

"Ladue Pharmacy will remain an independent, community pharmacy, dedicated to serving the great people of this community," said Rick Williams in a written statement. "Brett and Rick Williams will remain sole owners of Ladue Pharmacy and will continue to serve area families and their health care needs."

The closing of the University City Williams Pharmacy left students of Washington University, just across Forest Park Parkway, without a convenient place to get over-the-counter drugs, toiletries, snacks and some prescriptions.

Student Life, the campus student newspaper, reported that students living north or west of campus will have to go farther to Walgreens, Target, Schnucks or other chain pharmacies to meet their needs. The university's Student Health Services fills most prescriptions for students, but sometimes referred students to Williams for specialty prescriptions or during off-hours, the campus paper reported.

In the Central West End, the loss of Prescriptions Plus at the busy corner of Maryland and Euclid avenues, has hit neighbors hard.

Dwyer, a longtime Central West End resident, suggested an enterprising graduate of the nearby St. Louis College of Pharmacy might step in to fill the gap for a neighborhood pharmacy.

"Our drug plan isn't accepted at Walgreens, which is where Prescriptions Plus sent our information," Dwyer said. "A lot of people were upset about that, sending it on without permission."

Complicating the issue is the fact that the insurer and pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts parted ways with Walgreens Jan. 1, after which Walgreens no longer honors Express Scripts plans.

Devon Dalpoas, who owns West Pine Pharmacy at 4401 W. Pine Ave., is ready to serve those displaced Williams customers. The independent pharmacy has been in business for 86 years, and Dalpoas has owned it for the past few years.

"Williams gave good service," said Dalpoas, a registered pharmacist. "We worked with them at times. I think it's a loss for the city that they closed their doors."

West Pine Pharmacy offers free delivery and the kind of personal attention that was so popular at Williams, Dalpoas said. He started working at West Pine in 1993 as a pharmacy student, then returned in 2000 and eventually purchased the store, he said.

Switching pharmacies is easy, Dalpoas said. Customers may bring in their prescription bottles and their insurance cards and "we'll take it from there," he said. The new pharmacy will make the necessary calls to doctors or insurance companies, he said.

Other nearby independent pharmacy options, in addition to Ladue Pharmacy, include:

Rx Jennifer's Pharmacy, 30 N. Central Ave. in Clayton; Medical Arts Pharmacy, 211 N. Meramec Ave. in Clayton; and MD Pharmacy, 8500 Delmar Blvd. in University City. Several supermarkets and large discount stores have pharmacies, but none are conveniently located in the heart of the Central West End or in walking distance of the university campus.

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