Medication Shopping = Bad Prescription?

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How well do you know the person who fills your prescriptions at the local pharmacy? Jan McCullough of Lansing knows him well.

"I walk in and I just say I have a script without saying my name, and they go right over and get it for me," she says.

The pharmacist McCullough speaks of is Calvin Helmick. He manages Atlas Drugs in Lansing and has been a pharmacist for more than 30 years. He says the relationship between patient and pharmacist is vital.

"It's not good to get prescriptions from so many places. You need to have a relationship with your pharmacist so they know what drugs you're on and make sure they don't interact," Helmick says.

He worries the new prescription incentives at stores like Meijer and Wal-Mart aren't productive for customers. Customers are likely to look around for the best offers and buy from multiple stores, ultimately sacrificing personal service and health advice. And Helmick says $4 generic drugs are no great deal.

"Since they're so cheap anyway and co-pay is so low, sometimes zero, for generic drugs, I don't think it's even a bargain."

Helmick does admit free generic drugs from Meijer will help those with little or no health insurance. But smaller pharmacies can't compete with free drugs.

"The small store is going to be in trouble," he says. "The ma and pa store, the corner store-- that's where people get the best service."

Long-time customer Jeanette Muse agrees:

"I've been coming here for 20 years, and the reason for that is, if something's wrong, they'll call your doctor. You won't get that at the bigger stores, they'll say they're too busy."

Helmick isn't worrying too much about the immediate future of his business. But eventually, he says he willl.

"Long term, the business of the pharmacy will change."

That change may have already begun.