St. Louis Post-Dispatch Examines Small Pharmacies’ Efforts To Provide Specialized Services to People Living With HIV/AIDS
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Wednesday examined the efforts of some small pharmacies to provide specialized services to people living with HIV/AIDS. According to the Post-Dispatch, HIV/AIDS care is "resisting" the pharmaceutical industry's overall trend toward distributing medication through mail-order pharmacies rather than through traditional retail.
According to the Post-Dispatch, small, specialty retail pharmacies -- such as the pharmacy chains CarePlus and BioScrip -- are able to provide personal attention, advice and resources to people living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, such specialty pharmacies often are located in neighborhoods that have a high percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS, offering HIV-positive people the convenience of a pharmacy near their homes. About 90% of the patients at the BioScrip in St. Louis' Richmond Heights neighborhood are living with HIV/AIDS, and the store has plans to relocate to a larger space in the area, the Post-Dispatch reports.
Most traditional retail pharmacies do not sell enough antiretroviral drugs to justify the additional cost of stocking the drugs and hiring staff who are specially trained to address HIV/AIDS. However, some Medicine Shoppe and Walgreens stores have added specialized services for patients living with HIV/AIDS. Sam Bae, a pharmacist who owns three Medicine Shoppe stores, said antiretroviral prescriptions account for about 10% of the business at his store in St. Louis' Central West End neighborhood. Bae said that the increase in antiretroviral prescriptions "just kind of fell into our pharmacy."
According to the Post-Dispatch, many people living with HIV/AIDS appreciate the attention they receive at specialty pharmacies, as well as the privacy of small pharmacies. Steve Miller, vice president of pharmacy for the pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts, said that he does not think specialty pharmacies will be as successful as mail-order pharmacies among HIV-positive people in the long term. Miller said that receiving antiretrovirals through the mail is more convenient for HIV-positive people who do not live near specialty pharmacies, adding that over-the-phone drug counseling is more private than counseling provided at traditional pharmacies (Feldstein, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 5/21).