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Rite Aid plans to close a dozen Michigan locations

Steve Heap/steheap - stock.adobe.com

The pharmacy chain Rite Aid said in recent bankruptcy filings that it plans to close a dozen stores in Michigan. The move is the latest in a series of store closures going back to late last year. The chain closed stores after a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing last October.

There is no word yet on potential layoffs or specific timeframes for closures.

The chain has been dealing with slumping sales and lawsuits over its alleged role in the opioid crisis.

The news raises concerns for both patients and pharmacists, said Eric Roath, the director of government affairs for the Michigan Pharmacists Association. “The patients are going to have to go out for themselves and find another pharmacy that meets their needs all in all. It's quite an inconvenience for the patients and the continuity of care throughout the entire health care delivery process,” he said.

And the closures will put pressure on the job market for pharmacists, said Roath. “We were in a position where the amount of pharmacists entering the workforce was almost exactly meeting the need here in Michigan,” he said. “We're ending up in a situation where we have pharmacists, members, some of my personal friends, are left without a job in a market that isn't necessarily prepared to integrate them into available positions,” he said.

Roath said there is no clear solution for the industry.

Beyond slumping sales and opioid lawsuits, Roath said pharmacies are struggling to negotiate with pharmacy benefit managers. People in that position act as negotiators between pharmacies, insurance companies, and drug makers.

“The reimbursement rates for prescription drugs are very often — and, in fact, usually — below the acquisition costs of the medication. Pharmacies don't have any negotiation power when it comes to negotiating these contracts and they can only buy at the best price that their wholesaler will give them,” he said.

Roath said that pharmacies are selling drugs at a loss as a result.

“You can't keep in business when the core product that you're selling, which is an essential life-saving medication, is being sold at a loss. That's why you're seeing so many closures,” he said.

A.J. Jones is a newsroom intern and graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Sources say he owns a dog named Taffy.
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