Myerson Pharmacy
Union City, New Jersey

5 - Myerson Pharmacy - AF

Myerson Pharmacy Has Been Serving the Community in Union City, New Jersey for over 100 Years

Myerson Pharmacy is a full service pharmacy located in Union City, New Jersey. They offer a full line of OTC items, vitamins, probiotics, and a large selection of Hispanic products. They cater to their local community with Spanish-speaking staff, free delivery, and low cost discount generics drugs. IPC recently had the opportunity to speak with pharmacy owner, Pratik Shah about his history with the pharmacy and how he got started as a pharmacy owner.
IPC:

Can you tell me about the history of the pharmacy and how you got started?

Pratik:

“The store that I own is called Myerson Pharmacy; it’s been a community pharmacy in Union City since 1907, so well over 100 years. The pharmacy has changed hands a few times from the original owners, and has seen many different economic cycles along the way. An interesting anecdote is that if you asked any local pharmacist in the area who grew up within a five to 10 mile radius most would say that they knew our store from their own childhood.

My involvement began about two years ago (in an exploratory sense) and then a year ago I came on as a partner and owner. My background isn’t as a pharmacist; I have a background in banking and finance. For me, entry into the pharmacy was focused as a business opportunity and seeing if I could add value to being an owner. There were a lot of pros and cons to evaluate and in the end I felt there was a lot of opportunity to grow and take the business forward.”

IPC:

What are some of the things you enjoy about pharmacy ownership?

Pratik:

“The business has been an interesting journey. From a personal standpoint, as a provider of prescription drug services, ensuring that our patients receive counseling on their medication and quality care for their health and well-being stands out as a rewarding outcome every day. There are very few things I can think of that are more noble than being in a position to look after your fellow man (or woman)!

From a business standpoint, what I find rewarding is that the landscape for our business is constantly changing and identifying ways to grow beyond just the normal walk-in patients can help drive us to new heights. For far too long, there has been a discouraging grey cloud over independent pharmacy owners and I get a sense that both from legislation and from conversations with other owners at conferences etc. that feeling is changing. Owning a pharmacy and being profitable should not sound like an unreasonable idea.”

IPC:

What are some of the challenges?

Pratik:

“Every industry has its own ups and downs. As far as retail pharmacy goes the lack of transparency is shocking, especially as an owner. You are pigeonholed into certain contracts that are negotiated on your behalf but then you don’t have the right to access information about the ins and outs of those contracts. PBMs negotiate with your PSAO; there are all sorts of middlemen and intermediaries that remove you from the conversation due to restrictive NDAs. That to me feels like it needs to be fixed. To not have full transparency as an owner is very frustrating and I can’t understand how it can remain an allowable practice.

I compare it to a car mechanic – if I bring my vehicle to a repair shop and the actual fee they can collect from me is below their own costs, the mechanic can simply say no and turn my business away. As a pharmacy owner, if someone brings me a prescription and it’s below my cost, I can’t necessarily say no. In many states, you have a legal obligation to dispense a medication even if it’s at a loss to you; what’s worse is that I won’t even know that it’s a loss until I actually process their insurance. A longstanding patient may all of a sudden become a loss to me because of a new contract, what am I going to do, show them the door out? I can’t and certainly won’t, however that seems a bit unfair in many ways.

I feel separately, in terms of working on solutions, there’s a lot of misinformation as to what the actual rules are, and what are you actually allowed to do without putting yourself in legal hot water. You want to be innovative but you can’t experiment with new ideas if you are putting your entire business at risk each time.

Lastly, working capital is inherently a key challenge to growing our business. Payers don’t always reimburse in a timely manner, but repayment to wholesalers must still happen. Whatever a provider can give you (generous terms) makes it easier to operate as a business and IPC does a great job of that, partnering with us and giving us that latitude.”

IPC:

How has your relationship been with IPC?

Pratik:

“I could not be happier with my partnership with IPC. One of the key aspects presented when we first launched was that there was transparency; you know what price you are getting charged and that’s the price that you pay. When ordering I don’t need to worry about additional costs, I know what my end cost will be. It’s one less stress, knowing I’m going to be charged what I thought I was going to be charged. The other aspect is the terms, right now reimbursements may take up to four to six weeks. With IPC I don’t have as much stress with working capital because I have more time to pay back my purchases.

We joined IPC a year and a half ago. Our outside sales representative was Tammy Riley and now Miriam Rucker, our inside sales representative is Rebekah Nelson. A lot of vendors will claim that all their representatives are available at any time, but when you go to call them you are waiting days, sometimes weeks to hear back. With IPC, I call with a question and I will get someone updating me on the status or answer immediately, that’s quality customer service.”

IPC:

Have you had a chance to attend any of our events?

Pratik:

“The events are on my radar but I haven’t had a chance to attend any yet. I have met with IPC folks at other conferences but I would love to attend your conference and be able to experience that.”

IPC:

Are you mostly in the store or offsite?

Pratik:

“I am here 90 percent of the time. Not necessarily on the floor but working on the business end of things in the office. Eventually my goal is not to be in the store so much. I don’t have the patient interaction but hiring, marketing, staffing, payroll, outreach, all of the aspects involved in growing the business fall under my radar.”

IPC:

What is the surrounding community like?

Pratik:

“We are in a densely populated area, two miles out of Manhattan. Not as densely populated as Manhattan but a lot of people and a lot of competition. There are 20 plus pharmacies in a two to three square mile radius. The community is diverse, and largely Hispanic. Being so close to New York we have the advantage of being an eclectic diverse community of all walks of life.

The surrounding community is basically 50/50 independents and chains. A few blocks one way are a couple chains, a few blocks the other way are independents. It’s an extremely competitive marketplace where patients have a lot of options on where they go for their medication.

When we find that we have a patient coming over from another pharmacy, we are reluctant to take business from another independent; we want to be collaborative with other independents. If we can take from chains that’s a different story, but we don’t want a combative environment with other independents. When independents don’t band together we are bound to lose, it’s better if we work well together than try to fight one another.”

IPC:

Are there any other special offerings you’d like us to highlight?

Pratik:

“We are a full service pharmacy and we offer a full line of OTC items, vitamins, probiotics, and we have a large ethnic selection. We have a Spanish-speaking staff and we offer free delivery. We will deliver pretty much anywhere. We will find a way to make sure our patients get their medications.”