Pharmacist Musings on Walgreens, Rite Aid Merger

Pharmacy history was made a few weeks ago when Walgreens, the largest pharmacy chain in the world, announced a $17.2 billion agreement to buy Rite Aid, the third largest chain in the country.

Pharmacy history was made a few weeks ago when Walgreens, the largest pharmacy chain in the world, announced a $17.2 billion agreement to buy Rite Aid, the third largest chain in the country. Provided it passes US Securities and Exchange Commission muster—as these things always seem to—it’s a done deal.

I’ve been around corporate community pharmacy long enough to realize that it is the same wherever you go. Having said that, I like the sound of it.

With the combining of 2 massive databases, patient care will become safer instantaneously. A patient will have his or her pharmacy information readily available on a sizable chunk of the planet, which redefines continuity of care. It also increases brand loyalty, and those of us on the retail side enjoy that.

This is like The Beatles merging with Pink Floyd. The Beatles would run the show, but in order for it to work, part of Floyd’s sound would have to still be heard. The same goes for the Rite Aid brand.

The Rite Aid system works. You don’t go from near bankruptcy almost 20 years ago to the third largest pharmacy chain in the country by having a bad business model.

The Wellness Ambassador program is a winner. Customer engagement is key in a successful pharmacy model, and it should be given a serious look with a dedicated pharmacist to make the program more involved.

The one thing I don’t like about mergers of this nature is the imminent business consolidation that will take place. With one store across the street from the other, you know that there will be some brothers and sisters of the craft looking for work, unless they prove useful to the company in a new revenue stream.

Pharmacist involvement in tertiary care such as medication therapy management, smoking cessation, weight loss, and immunizations on a full-time basis would be highly profitable if there was somebody to do it all day long instead of just dabbling here and there throughout the day.

If you add a nurse practitioner to the mix, you can have somebody getting all of their acute health care needs met in one spot. I realize this is already being done, but expanding on that nationwide would allow primary care physicians the room to practice primary care instead of treating the sniffles.

In about a year, health care will be streamlined in a way not previously seen. It is an exciting time to be in pharmacy. If done correctly, this merger could revolutionize the industry.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, is the author of Fatman in Recovery: Tales from the Brink of Obesity.