A new pharmacy has opened for business on the ground floor of the Codman Square Health Center, which is following the lead of several other community health centers that have already captured an important market by carving out space for an in-house drug store.
The pharmacy is meant to be a convenience for patients— who can pick up prescriptions just minutes after their appointments end upstairs— and a revenue generator for the health center, which gets a fee for each of its patients who fill an order there. It will also help doctors combat a long-time frustration: The store’s tracking system allows docs to monitor whether patients are actually picking up the prescriptions they write.
“The number one reason we did this is our doctors have wanted a pharmacy in here for a long time,” says Bill Walczak, Codman Square Health Center’s founder and executive director. “Compliance is a huge issue and now our docs will have access to that information. Plus, we have set aside funds to help people who can’t make the co-payments. So there should be no reason for people not to get the medicine they need.”
Uphams Corner Health Center opened up an in-house pharmacy over a decade ago and Dorchester House has had one set-up on its main floor for the last five years. Community health centers, which receive federal funds, are eligible for significantly educed rates on prescription drugs through a program called 340B Drug Pricing Program.
At Dot House, which serves as the model for the new Codman site, the pharmacy fills roughly 130,000 prescriptions per year— accounting for nearly half of their doctor’s orders.
Walczak held back from opening one up in his building because a small mom-and-pop pharmacy was located directly across the street and Walczak loathed the idea of driving him out of business. But that store — the Codman Square Pharmacy— went out of business last year after its owner Amad “Joe” Onujiogu was arrested and charged with fraud. (Specifically, Onujiogu was charged with fraudulently billing Medicaid for phony prescriptions. He has pled not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial in a U.S. court in Boston next month.)
Although Codman Square is also home to a Walgreen’s store— which includes a pharmacy— Walczak has bristled at what he calls the corporation’s “obnoxious” marketing techniques.
“You walk in there and this “health care company” is pushing brownies at the counter,” says Walczak. “They not only sell them, but they ask you at the cash register if you want to buy them. This is in a community with enormously high rates of diabetes and obesity and they’re pushing 99 cent brownies with 490 calories apiece!”
There are no brownies or any other food-stuff on sale in the health center. The pharmacy is strictly focused on pharmaceuticals and is run by staff from Eaton Apothecary, Inc., a family-run company that specializes in health center-based stores. The manager, Mark Dumouchel, is a second-generation pharmacist whose family once ran the Strand Pharmacy in Uphams Corner. His company now operates 13 sites throughout Massachusetts.
“This is week three here at Codman Square and things are really accelerating,” said Dumouchel, who said that the store filled 200 prescriptions on Monday— well ahead of projections.
An official opening ceremony for the Codman pharmacy is set for August 12.