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The growing issue has customers concerned and frustrated.
Most of us have at least one prescription medication we take regularly. And even if you don’t, chances are you will be relying on your local pharmacy for over-the-counter (OTC) drugs during the already concerning cold and flu season rolling in. But if your go-to drugstore chain is Walgreens, you might face trouble soon.
Many Walgreens shoppers are worried about a major medication issue—and it could end up impacting you, if it hasn’t already. Read on to find out what problem the popular pharmacy is currently struggling with.
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Picking up medication at Walgreens hasn’t been the easiest for customers recently. At the beginning of the year, COVID outbreaks and ongoing staffing struggles forced the popular drugstore to adjust hours and temporarily close a number of pharmacies throughout the U.S. Then in July, Walgreens started getting hit with calls for boycotts, as several shoppers came forward with stories about the company and its employees refusing to fill certain prescriptions, like birth control.
But the issues haven’t let up. In September, Walgreens confirmed that it is dealing with an Adderall shortage as customers spoke out about issues obtaining the ADHD medication at some of the company’s pharmacies. And that same month, the company was hit with a major lawsuit from one New Jersey consumer who claimed that a Walgreens pharmacy gave him the wrong prescription altogether, resulting in “serious, painful, permanent, and disabling injuries.”
A new trend has many Walgreens customers concerned about one thing: where they’ll get their medication. The popular drug store chain has recently started closing a number of stores around the U.S., leaving many without nearby pharmacy access for their healthcare needs. Walgreens is shuttering three different Boston stores this week, with a location in the Roxbury neighborhood closing on Nov. 8, Hyde Park shutting down on Nov. 9, and Mattapan set to close on Nov. 10, CBS News reported.
Julia Mejia, a Boston City Councilor At-Large, told the news outlet that this is going to create a major medication problem for residents in the area. “This abrupt shutting down of these pharmacies are going to create pharmacy deserts in our communities,” Mejia said. “We already have a hard enough time getting the medical prescriptions that we need. Now we’re going to have find other spaces and places to be able to have access to life-saving medication.”
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Boston is hardly the only city feeling the pressure from Walgreens pharmacies closing. Areas in which the average distance to the nearest pharmacy is one mile or more are considered “pharmacy deserts,” according to the U.S. Pharmacist. But in low-income neighborhoods where at least 100 households have no vehicle, this threshold drops to a half mile or more “to account for transportation barriers,” the pharmacy journal explained.
And like the Boston closures, this is exactly what is happening in Rochester, New York. Karen Emerson, president of the city’s 19th Ward Community Association, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that Walgreens just closed its Rochester location on Nov. 7, which Emerson said would create a “pharmacy desert” in the area.
“It’s devastating,” Emerson told the outlet, which reported that residents in the 19th Ward will now have to travel two miles further to the closest Walgreens on Chili Avenue for their medications. “They have no qualms about closing. They feel no obligation to the neighborhood.”
Customers in the Rochester area have also spoken out about how concerned they are in terms of how they are going to get their prescriptions and OTC meds now. “A lot of seniors use this store to get their medications,” Resident Isiah Dixon told News10NBC. “I just came to pick up mine, and they tell me I got to go to Chili Avenue. What’s for the people that don’t have vehicles to make it to Chili Avenue, and we need our medication.”
Back in 2019, Walgreens first announced plans to close 200 stores throughout the U.S., CNBC reported. According to the news outlet, the drugstore chain said at the time that these closures were part of a “transformation cost management program” meant to help save the company $1.5 billion in annual expenses by fiscal 2022.
Now, Walgreens said it is continuing to close locations as it works to maintain its retail footprint. “As we move forward on our strategy to expand Walgreens role as a leader in the delivery of local healthcare, we are focused on creating the right network of stores in the right locations to best meet the needs of the communities we serve,” the company said in a statement to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
The recent Walgreens closures have been a “difficult decision,” the company has reiterated in several statements to local news outlets. But the drugstore chain told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that “there are a number of factors that we take into consideration, including dynamics of the local market and changing buying habits of our customers.”
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