At the beginning of 2019 Andrea Cusack was celebrating the one-year anniversary of opening her independent pharmacy, an occasion marked by two exciting events.
The first event is one that people as far away as Germany and China heard about. She made a prescription delivery by snowmobile with one of her sons; something she says isn’t that out of the ordinary despite the viral attention she received.
Cusack said she had called a pair of home-bound customers for one of their monthly deliveries during a snowstorm and learned their road wasn’t clear.
“So I asked if I should just bring them on a snowmobile,” Cusack said. “It was as simple as that”
Her sons had been home from school due to a snow day and were snowmobiling all day before she came home.
“I asked the oldest one, to go get the snowmobile out because we’re going to make a delivery and he was very excited to do that,” Cusack said.
She rode on the back and as they left, her husband took a photo and created the Facebook post that would start the media frenzy.
“We just made some fun out of it and made sure our customers wouldn't be without their medications,” Cusack said.
The trip was completed by foot after they got stuck in a ditch when they slowed the snowmobile to stop at the road crossing.
“I was all bundled up and I literally had to walk through drifts that were waist high to get up to their house, luckily it wasn't far!”
Cusack didn’t bring her cellphone and she ended up having to use the customers’ phone to call her husband for help. All this effort was put in for a free delivery; in fact another snowmobile delivery was made the following day during the polar vortex when the temperature was -30 degrees. Other services provided by Lake Odessa Pharmacy include; health screenings, immunizations, medication therapy management, pill packaging, drive-thru service and more.
Since she’s been in the news Cusack said, “I’ve had people write me from all over the world. I think people are just looking for a feel-good story right now.”
Shortly after all the media attention, she had a second reason to get excited; her first paycheck to herself.
“I received my first paycheck today,” Cusack said the day of her interview, February 8.
It was a hard earned-check after a year of learning how to operate her own pharmacy as both the owner and pharmacist and putting all money earned right back into the business.
“I didn’t realize actually how difficult it would be to run your own pharmacy,” Cusack said.
She worked for a national chain drug store for 19 years and quit in January of 2018 before opening her own store the following February.
“I felt like I was becoming a robot on an assembly line,” Cusack said about her final years with the chain store. “It was just exhausting.”
Even though she went a year without a paycheck, she said her time as an owner has been less stressful and more fulfilling. She has been able to spend more quality time with friends and family while concentrating on the wellness of the people she now helps with their Pharmaceutical needs.
Though she said she understands a little more about why the chain store operates the way they do after owning her own pharmacy, she is enjoying her work much more. She chose to open up the store in her hometown, Lake Odessa. The population of the small town is about 2,000.
“We seem to be holding our own,” Cusack said about the present.
She credits her success to her customer service. Cusack enjoys helping her patients, and truly getting to know them while taking care of them. The pharmacy is continuing to grow and hopes to be reaching their daily script goals soon, but her time as an owner isn’t without challenges.
“I feel like we are losing money on at least a quarter of our claims and that’s devastating to me especially with it being our own store,” Cusack said. “… PBMs are ruling the world.”
This has caused Cusack and members of her staff to spend a good portion of their time searching for the best prices for the various items they offer for the benefit of her and her patients.
“That’s why we use IPC … we spend most of our time shopping for the best price because of the lack of reimbursements from the insurance,” Cusack said. “… IPC has been with us since day one or day two.”
Another challenge she faces alone is her position as both the owner and the pharmacist. She keeps the books and ensures all aspects of the pharmacy are running properly. At the same time she has made sure to be involved in the community in which she operates. This includes attending chamber of commerce meetings, volunteering her time, donating to local groups and more.
“We just try to do as much as we can, when we can,” Cusack said. “Being able to care for the people of this community that we consider family is one of the reasons we took the step to open our own pharmacy.”
She has no big plans for expanding for the future, but has recently added a part-time pharmacist so she could take some days off and will be taking her first vacation in more than 2 years next month.