/ Modified feb 7, 2011 4:07 p.m.

Family Pharmacies in Decline?

Number of independently-owned pharmacies is down significantly in Tucson

pharmsdeb-spotlight Pharmacist Deborah Van Sant works at her recently-opened business in Tucson.

Despite the tough economy, some people in Tucson are trying to get into a competitive market that is dominated by chain drug stores.

Deborah Van Sant and her partner Greg are an example: the couple recently inaugurated a pharmacy just east of downtown Tucson. They say it requires a lot of work and dedication but they're committed to making a difference that will allow them to grow and prosper in the community.

"We’re going to know your name, we’re going to know what you want, we’ll have your prescriptions ready before you even call. It’s just that more personalized I’m-your-next-door neighbor, I’m-your-friend [approach] as opposed to I’m-just-a-business-person," says Van Sant.

The "Medicine Shoppe" is part of a franchise that is independently owned and operated by the couple. They chose the franchise route, they say, because some of the basic requirements that are necessary in the business, such as insurance, are made much simpler this way than going it alone.

Another businesses that has been around much longer and is already well-established is Reed's Compounding Pharmacy. It is owned and operated by Tom Reed and his daughter Dana Reed-Kane, University of Arizona Pharmacy School alumni.

Tom bought a drug store in 1979 and moved it to Campbell and Speedway before moving to the present location in 1998.

“At that time in 1979 there were 50 independent drug stores and 50 chain pharmacies," he says. "There’s about 4 or 5 independents left.”

The Reeds say they are able to compete by providing personal service. This can entail, for instance, mixing prescriptions specifically for people or animals who are allergic to one ingredient in the common version of a medicine.

"It’s very rewarding when you can help a patient and they can tell you 'until now nothing else has worked' or 'until now I haven’t been able to take anything'," says Reed-Kane. "That really makes your day."

And even though the competition is stiff, both pharmacies say there is room in the marketplace for independents as well as chain stores.

"We complement each other," says Reed-Kane. "There are needs in a traditional pharmacy and then other people need customized formulations. We do serve a unique need for a lot of patients.”

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