Listen: Drug Stores- Mankato

MPR’s Paul Gruchow talks with community Mankato drug stores on the struggles of medication costs and cooperatives.


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SPEAKER 1: We welcome competition. We welcome competition that is in the same free enterprise system that we are in. And if anybody wants to put up a co-op pharmacy, tremendous. Fine, we welcome that. But we don't like to let them use the [? time sheets ?] [INAUDIBLE].

SPEAKER 2: We thought that if by starting this pharmacy, if it didn't last six months, but it created an awareness on the part of the drugstore owners or the pharmacy owners that the prices were too high and that the only way that they can compete with us would be to drop the prices and even if we went out of business that the prices came down, we were doing the service.

SPEAKER 1: In this particular circulator, the head of the article says, prescription drugs are expensive and going up. Now, I ask him where he got his documentation for that. And he said from a survey that these particular people made in LeSueur. I think it also says Nicollet County and so on and so forth here.

He didn't give us the names of the people who were involved in here. He just said it was his survey. I proceeded to point out to these individuals that I have facts and documentation for my position that rather than drugs are expensive and going up, drugs are going down.

The statistics that I prove that in is a particular article on prescription prices down 10%, while cost of living climbs. The cost of prescriptions went down 10% between the years 1960 and 1970. And yet, almost all other cost of living, let's say, have gone up. A remarkable feat, I think, in light of the fact that you have inflation continually getting into people's dollar.

SPEAKER 2: We might mention that the source is a consumer price index for the US Bureau of Labor.

SPEAKER 1: Of labor statistics, correct. I went also on to add that some of my other documentation is taken from the United States-- or from the Lilly Digest, which I admit is a drug company. But taken from their profit and loss statements from several pharmacies that they have that submit their profit and loss statements and technically can be checked out. I'm not so sure whether Lilly Digest will be willing to say that this particular profit and loss statement is from that particular store. I don't think they're at liberty to do that.

I do know that I have been approached by one druggist in town here, who told me he would be willing to open his profit and loss statement to a public audit, if they want the information that they want to get. Quite a thing, I think, he's not willing to open his profit and loss statement for some radical group that's willing to come in there and crucify him on issues by misquoting him and misrepresenting him and so on and so forth. But at any rate, in this particular Lilly Digest, and it's open to the public, the public can get the thing, it states, the average community pharmacy recorded sales highs during 1970.

The 21st consecutive year in which sales have increased expressed as a percentage of sales, however. Net profit decreased to the lowest level since 1932, as did total income, propriety salary plus net profit. Now, these are documentations. True, they're from the Lilly Digest and a drug company, but they are documentations.

And every source that I have been able to find-- and I challenge these people to get sources other than the press, so to speak, to come up with adverse things about pharmacy. I challenge that. I welcome that. I welcome suggestions on how we can reduce drug costs.

But I detest the open flagrant using of our press to what I really think, in essence. And I'm making a serious charge, which many radicals are inclined to do to overthrow our institutions.

SPEAKER 2: And the amazing thing that you find is no matter what income level you are, you still get belted every time for prescription drugs. Whether you're a high income person or low, the cost is still there. The only way you can get around it is to shop for it.

What happens a great deal is a clinic will be set up, a group of doctors will get together, and they'll have a pharmacy in the clinic. Anybody can go to the pharmacy. But somehow, somebody can say that I'm all wet, but I find that the prescription prices in clinics, clinic pharmacies are much higher than, for instance, Osco here in Mankato.

SPEAKER 1: As long as I've been here and I've been here 10 years, I have yet to deny a youngster medication because they can't pay for it, a youngster. Now, that is my philosophy. And I'm not so sure I care about having it broadcasted because I don't want all the people in Minnesota sending their youngsters that can't pay for medications down here to charge it. If that happened to the point where I could never afford it anymore, then I would have to deny it.

But I have never yet, although I knew many times I would not get paid in it, I have never yet denied them. I will deny an adult, if I know the adult to be a man who's got plenty of time to be down to the pool hall, who's got plenty of time to do all the drinking he wants. And then he goes out here and he gets injured or something because he might have had too much to drink and runs to the doctor and wants some help. And then comes in here and wants a pain pill.

If his credit is no good, no. He just don't get credit. If he's got the booze to go down and get drunk and have an accident and so on and so forth, well, maybe he should take his money down and get a little bit more booze to anesthetize him.

SPEAKER 2: What we hope to do is drop the price low enough, still make enough profit to carry the salary of a pharmacist, the rent on the building, the minimum overhead costs, and that's it. We're not out to make a profit to put into somebody's pocket. It's going to be a co-operative in that if any profit is made, a certain amount has to be placed into a reserve fund. State of Minnesota's got co-operative laws that you have to abide by.

With that in mind, you have to start placing money into this reserve. And the rest, you can give back to the people that own shares in the co-operative. Simple enough. We figure in the place that we've selected, this department store, Dallas department store Nicollet, we figure that we can open with $6,000. That'll be a completely stocked pharmacy from A to Z, every prescription drug.

And what we don't have, we can get 24-hour service from wholesalers. Enough to open. We'll have all the requirements that the State Board of Pharmacy has for pharmacy. It'll be a business. As simple as that.

And with $6,000, somebody could open up a pharmacy. That's an amazing figure. I know it shocked the hell out of me.

SPEAKER 1: Another absurd thing, they say they can stock the drug store on $5,000 inventory. The drug store that I've got right here, I have right around $24,000, $25,000 stock. And the bigger share of that $18,000, $19,000, $20,000 is right back here in this pharmacy. And you can see here, it doesn't appear as though I'm that overstocked. And they plan on doing it on $5,000, it's absurd.

SPEAKER 2: We talked to Vista last February and asked them to find a pharmacist that would be willing to donate for a year his or her time to a community effort. They rounded one up. There would be no responsibility for workmen's compensation, Social Security payments, or any salary. But what we plan to do is to amortize the salary of a pharmacist over a year and start putting this money away.

SPEAKER 1: I've used the word a lot, but I mean it's just exactly that. And maybe the position we have to take is the position of the martyr. Maybe you have to become a martyr before you can get your point across. I don't know.

I'm not saying that so much that I am a martyr personally, that's not my point. The profession is. There's poor druggist out here in small towns that have been. And people have used the press in the past for their advantage.

And it's been at the expense, usually, of the independent pharmacist who is trying to struggle out here and struggle and make a living for his family and his children. And I'm rather concerned about-- they can say what they want to about the small independent businessmen in America and the free enterprise system, but it's a small independent businessman who has really made America. It's not been the presidents and the politicians and the executive directors of the Minnesota Valley Action Councils or the Paul Gaffreys at the Joint Ministry Center that have made America, it's been the small businessmen of America.

And I think the small businessmen of America who have essentially made this country deserve a right to speak. I think they deserve a right to be heard in the press and not to be ramshod like I really think our profession has been.


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