Independent pharmacy owners are constantly searching for innovative ways to grow their business. With increasing pressure from PBMs, and mail-order giants like DivvyDose and PillPack aggressively pursuing market share, offering new services can help independent pharmacies compete.
One approach gaining momentum among pharmacy owners: offering supplements and vitamins in pouch packaging strips. Yet despite the growing popularity of this service, some pharmacy owners are hesitant to implement a supplements program.
Below are answers to some of the most common questions about growing your drugstore’s vitamins and supplements business.
How do I Recommend the Right Supplements for each Medication?
How can a pharmacist make sure that the supplements they recommend will, in fact, improve vitamin deficiencies caused by certain medications?
This is one of the most common concerns that may deter pharmacy owners from offering vitamins to their patients.
Many medications can cause vitamin deficiencies. These deficiencies often cause patients to experience side effects such as low energy, hair loss, or even worsening vision. Symptoms caused by vitamin deficiencies are often felt by patients who are properly adhering to their medications.
“Most of our compliance packaging patients, when we would start them, had not been adherent, so they didn’t know how the meds would make them feel,” explains Joe Williams, owner and pharmacist at Brisson Drugs. “When you come to patients with recommendations and with data, they're ready to listen. [Patients] want to do it because they've already seen how you've helped them with the compliance packaging,” says Williams.
One strategy that pharmacists can use to improve their knowledge surrounding vitamins and supplements is referring to a handbook that lists common vitamin deficiencies caused by certain drugs. Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook is a good resource to help you and your staff get started. This strategy works well if the pharmacist also takes the time to talk to patients, and gain a personal understanding of their health.
Having a “cheat sheet” available in the pharmacy workspace can also improve the pharmacist’s confidence in recommending certain medications. Patients can begin taking a recommended vitamin and report back to their pharmacist whether or not they feel a difference in their health.
Should I Package Supplements as a Free Service or Charge a Nominal Fee?
Independent pharmacy owners often struggle to improve profitability, so it might be surprising to hear that some independent pharmacy owners offer free adherence pouch packaging.
Many RapidPakRx owners offer adherence packaging at no extra cost to their patients to meet competition. Lower consumable costs and decreased labor costs allow businesses to offset expenses incurred in providing the service.
PillPack and DivvyDose offer free pouch packaging services and free delivery. The convenience and affordability that these competitors offer is enough to capture the attention of many people. In order to compete and gain market share, many pharmacists offer adherence packaging free of charge to meet patient demand.
How Does a Pharmacy Offer Adherence Packaging for Free When Trying to Improve the Bottom Line?
“One of the things we did was a base calculation of how many patients we needed to pay for the mortgage on the machine,” says Richard Moon, RPh, founder of Pharmacy Innovations. “When you start breaking it down into patients per day, it really becomes a much more manageable chunk to think about.”
In addition to adding more patients with multiple prescriptions, investing in the right automation can help lower the cost of consumables and labor. The RapidPakRx has some of the lowest consumable costs in the industry. The adherence pouch packaging system can also help decrease labor costs. The RapidPakRx can complete packaging for up to 50 patients in one day, using only one technician in an 8-hour shift. Filling more scripts helps generate more revenue, without tying up too many staff members. Pharmacy owners can redirect reclaimed time to other profitable services.
How do Pharmacists Choose the Right Supplement Brands?
With thousands of supplements and vitamins on the market, choosing the right brands for your patients might feel overwhelming.
Thankfully, other pharmacists can provide insight into successful strategies.
Omar Eliwa, owner of Welltopia Pharmacy, found a technique that helped narrow down his search. “One thing I learned is to never buy more than one or two bottles of something new because some of them are not going to be suitable for your patients or for your team,” adds Eliwa. Understanding which vitamins and supplements are positively received by patients can reduce the cost of wasted inventory.
“It has to be step by step; it has to be only what you are educated on from those supplements because they're not selling themselves,” says Eliwa. “They are very expensive and if they expire, no one is going to take them from you.”
Testing small orders of supplements and vitamins is the best way to test the success of a brand in your pharmacy. Starting with a small supply also minimizes financial loss in the case that a brand is not well-received by your patients. Strive to find the “perfect” brands, based on efficacy and affordability, that fit the needs of your community.
Dominating Your Market
The main thing that sets independent pharmacies apart from mail-order giants -- personalized healthcare. A common concern among mail-order patients is the lack of communication and care that they receive.
Mail-order patients struggle to communicate prescription changes and worry about their prescriptions arriving late, damaged in the mail, or having them stolen.
Independent pharmacies can dominate the market by offering the convenience of pouch packaging without compromising the relationship with the patient. Pharmacies should consider offering in-person pick-up, drive-thru service, or free delivery to compete against PillPack and DivvyDose.
“What I realized was that I was doing everything that everybody else was, and it was like trying to surf on a wave from behind, trying to catch up to the top of the wave,” says Moon. “You got to be an innovator of some sort. We started looking at things that nobody else was doing or very few people were doing.” It’s not too late to tap into the growing adherence pouch packaging market.
RxSafe recently hosted a webinar for pharmacy owners focused on the ROI of supplements. Check out this recording here.
If you would like to learn how the RapidPakRx can help your pharmacy support a profitable supplement program, please call (877) 797-2332 to speak with an expert or visit our product page.