DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
Oak Lawn Pharmacy, a company founded to provide name-brand HIV medications, has stopped carrying them, a pharmacy spokesman confirmed this week. Employees at the store are helping its customers transfer their prescriptions to other pharmacies in the area.
Marketing Director Walker Patterson said his company didn’t buy enough generic medications to get the discount on all of its HIV meds necessary to continue selling the medications profitably. In order to sell the drugs at a competitive rate, the pharmacy was losing money on each prescription, he said.
Pharmacist Amanda Bui said in order to get a discount to make name-brand HIV meds affordable, they have to purchase a certain quantity of generics as well. She said she thought when Truvada went off-brand this year, that would solve their problem. But manufacturer Gilead changed the formula slightly and replaced Truvada with Descovy, she said.
That resulted in the pharmacy having to make the difficult decision to stop selling the expensive HIV medications.
Patterson said when Oak Lawn Pharmacy first went into business as Pride Pharmacy a number of years ago, there was less competition in the area.
CVS and Walgreens weren’t as large, and AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Prism Health didn’t have pharmacies affiliated with their offices.
But, Patterson stressed, “We’re still a full-service pharmacy.”
He highlighted the pharmacy’s daily pill packs, in which pills are wrapped in a clear package and divided by day or even the time of day each one should be taken. And the pharmacy will deliver the packs.
“We have great prices on ED medication,” Patterson continued, explaining that through an online service, they can help with those meds, which they also will deliver for free. He said a customer fills out a medical evaluation, and there’s an option to talk to a doctor. The process, he said is safe and discrete.
In discussing how out of control drug pricing has become, Bui mentioned Good Rx. She said pharmacies that accept the app that lowers the price of generic drugs usually start with higher prices.
In the TV ad for Good Rx, a woman walks up to a pharmacist to get a price quote on a drug her child needs and is quoted a price of more than $60. As the woman turns to walk away, the pharmacist stops her and gives her the Good Rx price — 12 bucks.
But, Bui said, Oak Lawn Pharmacy’s prices on a range of medications tend to be lower than those of Good Rx, so she doesn’t need to play games with pricing apps.
Bui said the pharmacy’s change in focus kicked in in January because that’s when insurance companies issue new drug prices for their customers and when drug companies raise prices and issue quotas to pharmacies to receive any discounts.
Walker said his pharmacy will continue to carry generic HIV meds and a full range of other drugs, including everything from antibiotics to cholesterol, diabetes, heart and other medications. And, he said, he hopes Oak Lawn Pharmacy will continue to be “your neighborhood drug store.”