NAU pharmacy set to shut down

The pharmacy at the HLC has almost everything on clearance for 75% off, and is not restocking any products, Aug. 19, 2019. The pharmacy at the HLC is closing down as of August 30. (Photo by Shannon Swain)

The Campus Health Services pharmacy located inside the Health and Learning Center (HLC) will close Aug. 30. Faculty, staff and students were notified of this decision July 31 via an email from Julie Ryan, the executive director for Campus Health Services.

According to Ryan’s email, other pharmacies in the Flagstaff area create a competitive retail market. These pharmacies, which are often larger in scale, are able to order various medicines in bulk. High volume purchasing has led to lower costs, which places Health Services at a disadvantage when compared to larger pharmacies.

The email referenced a careful analysis of the campus pharmacy market and business operations as the reason for the closure. Additionally, Ryan’s email was delivered with the intent to give Health Services customers time to refill their orders and change their pharmaceutical providers before the closure.

“We are sending this notice today [July 31] to ensure existing customers have adequate time to obtain refills and transfer prescriptions prior to the closure,” Ryan stated via email.

The email also provided a list of pharmacies in close proximity to campus. Walgreens, CVS, Safeway and Walmart were all included as close accessible options.

One pharmacy within walking distance of campus is the CVS Pharmacy, located inside the Target on Milton Road and University Drive. According to the company’s website, CVS Health has over 9,900 locations throughout America. Although the company has managed and filled 2.5 billion prescriptions, some NAU employees find it to be impersonal and inconvenient compared to the Health Services pharmacy.

Although the university pharmacy may not be financially viable, it is partially funded by student fees. Every student at NAU’s Flagstaff campus pays a $550 annual Health and Recreation fee and a portion of this funding goes directly to Health Services.

Despite the potential benefits of closing the NAU pharmacy, many students and staff rely on it for their prescriptions. It could be logistically difficult for some patients to coordinate with other pharmacies and commute through town.

Sophomore Johnelle Gonzales used the university pharmacy repeatedly during her freshman year. She shared her positive experience with both the pharmacy and its staff.

“The service was really good, and the workers were friendly,” Gonzales said. “They were very quick with providing service to me every time I went in, and I never had to wait.”

Gonzales emphasized the convenience of having both a doctor’s office and pharmacy in the HLC. She said this time-saving component is a noteworthy benefit of the Health Services pharmacy.

“I did find it convenient to have the doctor’s office and pharmacy right next to each other,” Gonzales said. “I could go in for an appointment and then head to the pharmacy to grab any prescription I might have.”

An anonymous NAU employee shared his personal experience with the affordability of the university pharmacy. This employee needs monthly refills on his medication, and NAU’s pharmacy is the cheapest option in the area, charging only a fraction of the cost. The employee said Walgreens charges $116 monthly for his prescription, and other pharmacies in town between $104 and $122. The Health Services pharmacy, however, charges him $6.40 to refill his prescription monthly. Additionally, he explained his frustration with NAU’s business focused mindset.

“Here’s this great service we provide, but we’re gonna take it away because it costs too much,” the anonymous employee said. “What they don’t realize is that the cost is pushed onto employees and students.”

The anonymous employee shared additional concerns about NAU’s recent budgeting. He said university administration is looking to cut direct spending and expenditures, even if it means compromising beneficial services such as the university pharmacy.

The anonymous employee emphasized the professional service, accommodation and convenience that the pharmacy provides. Furthermore, he shared his dissatisfaction with the corporate structure of other pharmacies in Flagstaff.

Employees and students are questioning the abrupt summer closure of the NAU pharmacy. Gonzales said she found the decision to be sudden and unpredictable.

“I was very surprised when I heard about it,” Gonzales said. “I thought a lot of students used [the university pharmacy], so I wasn’t sure why [NAU] decided to close it.”

Campus staff is available to answer further questions and assist with the transition.