CVS-Target Pharmacy Deal: Career Considerations for Pharmacists

CVS's acquisition of Target's pharmacy business is just the latest example of changes that are on the horizon for the pharmacy profession.

When CVS and Target announced they had negotiated a deal to transfer the ownership of the nearly 1700 Target pharmacies to CVS, the difficulty of pharmacy profitability began to sink in.

I try to keep an ear to the ground with respect to major pharmacy profession transitions, but I must admit that this one caught me (and many others) by surprise.

Still, some were not shocked at all. A few Target pharmacists I have spoken with saw something like this coming, though not so swiftly.

In a conversation I had with a Target pharmacist who wished to remain anonymous, I was told, "We knew that many of our stores were not profitable, and that there was a 5-year deadline to try and turn things around." Such efforts involved cutting costs by reducing technician help, according to my pharmacist friend, but it appears that just wasn't enough.

This whole transaction makes for a remarkable business school case study. While Target allegedly couldn't manage to get out of the red with respect to its pharmacy business, CVS saw enough potential to shell out $1.9 billion for the chance to take a shot at it. My guess is that the plan involves a certain amount of consolidation in areas where CVS already has a strong presence and Target pharmacies are not profitable.

Translation? We'll likely see some Target pharmacy closures in the future.

What does all of this mean for the pharmacy profession, especially the careers of the pharmacists and technicians employed by Target?

For a long time, I have been encouraging pharmacists to own their careers. If your store cannot turn a profit, this economy simply cannot sustain a loss-leader of that magnitude. In my opinion, pharmacists working for other companies in which profitability is questionable need to take note of this acquisition. Think it won't happen to you? Think again.

So, what should pharmacists do? Here are few thoughts, based on my 20 years of experience in this industry:

1. Be valuable

Ask yourself if what you are contributing to your organization is really worth what it is paying you. If not, what can you do to change it? Some great opportunities are coming down the road in terms of provider status and consulting services. But, unless pharmaicsts take advantage of these situations to create value for employers, they will simply not reach their full potential.

2. Be vocal

Pharmacists need to speak up on the issues they are passionate about and not let those who have no vested interest in our profession do all the talking. Do you want your local pharmacy association to advocate for you? Then you have to join and support it, and let your voice be heard.

3. Be versatile

This means getting ready to diversify your career. Be prepared to showcase your diverse set of talents to various employers. Do you have certifications? Do you hold multiple state licenses? Have you significantly contributed to several important accomplishments at your present job? Make sure they appear on your résumé.

The pharmacy profession is possibly undergoing the most rapid transformation in its history. While the "product-focused" model of the past is slowly dying, the "patient-focused" model of the future is developing before our eyes. While watching and participating in this period is exciting, the transition is not without growing pains.

CVS's purchase of Target's pharmacy business is just the latest example of changes that are on the horizon. Being prepared and involved are essential as pharmacists manage these changes together.