Pro-Life Drugstore to Open

Discussion
Jun 17, 2008

By George Anderson

Consumers coming to DMC Pharmacy when it opens this summer will be able to get virtually all the same prescription medicines and over-the-counter remedies they can get in any other drugstore. What they won’t be able to get, and this is what makes DMC different, is any form of birth control pill or device.

DMC is one of a growing number of pharmacies around the U.S. operated by owners with a desire to help the public, except in areas where it might conflict with their own personal religious beliefs.

“The United States was founded on the idea that people act on their conscience — that they have a sense of right and wrong and do what they think is right and moral,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel at the Thomas More Society in Chicago, told the Washington Post. “Every pharmacist has the right to do the same thing,” he said.

In fact, it has been the refusal by some pharmacists to fill prescriptions for various types of birth control pills that has led a number of states to enact laws requiring stores to direct consumers to another pharmacist if one on duty has a moral objection to a certain type of medication. To date, California, Illinois, New Jersey and Washington have laws requiring pharmacists to help patients seeking birth control products even if they have a moral objection.

“This allows a pharmacist who does not wish to be involved in stopping a human life in any way to practice in a way that feels comfortable,” said Karen Brauer president of Pharmacists for Life International.

Ms. Brauer’s group lists seven pharmacists and pharmacies around the country that have pledged to follow “pro-life” guidelines. These include:

  1. David and Carmen Cartaya, RPhs, David’s Pharmacy,
    Tampa, Florida
  2. Andrews Eells, BSP, Greta Pharmacy, Hialeah, Florida
  3. David Rokosz, RPh, Richmond
    Apothecary, Richmond, Indian
  4. Lloyd DuPlantis, PD, Lloyd’s Remedies, Gray, Louisiana
  5. Michael Koelzer, RPh,
    Kay Pharmacy and Home Medical Equipment, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  6. Lane Hawley,
    RPh, Superior Pharmacy, Superior, Nebraska
  7. Robert Semler, RPh, DMC Pharmacy,
    Chantilly, Virginia

“We try to practice pharmacy in a way that we feel is best to help our community and promote healthy lifestyles,” said Lloyd Duplantis, one of the pharmacists who has signed the pro-life pledge. “After researching the science behind steroidal contraceptives, I decided they could hurt the woman and possibly hurt her unborn child. I decided to opt out.”

Not everyone believes that pro-life pharmacists are protecting women. “Contraception is essential for women’s health. A pharmacy like this is walling off an essential part of health care. That could endanger women’s health,” Marcia Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center, told the Post.

“We just say there are other pharmacies in the area they can go to,” Robert Semler at DMC Pharmacy. “We’re not threatening anybody. We’re just trying to serve a niche market of like-minded individuals.”

Discussion Questions: What do you think of pro-life pharmacies as niche marketing strategy? Is it a marketable point of difference? Will consumers with similar religious beliefs shop these stores if prices, for example, are higher than at pharmacies that do not draw these moral distinctions?

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16 Comments on "Pro-Life Drugstore to Open"


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Evan Schuman
Guest
Evan Schuman
13 years 11 months ago
From a rational perspective, this makes little sense. There are three kinds of pharmacy customers in the world: those who want some form of birth control; those who don’t; those who don’t care. Clearly, the first category would avoid this kind of store. The third category wouldn’t be given a reason to switch from their current store. It’s the middle category that is interesting. Many who are not interested in birth control are not necessarily morally opposed to it. They simply may not need it for various reasons (trying to get pregnant or no longer able to get pregnant or to make someone else pregnant, etc.). For those people, I don’t see a compelling reason for them to switch. So this is solely a marketing gimmick for the percentage of the population for whom this is a key issue, a group that would want to reward a pharmacy for taking this stance. That said, a pharmacy is, by its nature, is very locally-oriented. So in certain communities where this is a major issue, I suppose… Read more »
Raymond D. Jones
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Raymond D. Jones
13 years 11 months ago

While there may be a core group of people who will respond to this positioning, I doubt that it would be of adequate size to represent a viable marketing segment for a retailer. People choose pharmacies for many reasons including insurance, prices, convenience and service. Any of these factors may outweigh a moral stand for most people.

More importantly, this presents a slippery slope for a retailer. If we start basing our product assortment on things nobody has an objection to, we would soon find the store substantially empty of merchandise.

Suppose you had an infection and your doctor prescribed an antibiotic. But the pharmacist decided that doctors were prescribing too many antibiotics and wouldn’t give it to you. How would you react?

David Biernbaum
Guest
13 years 11 months ago

Nothing like mixing politics and emotion with business; hey I like it because it’s a strong point of difference for marketing purposes. The people who feel “moderate” to “extreme” about this issue (and there are enough of them to make a good size market) will flock to the stores. Others who are turned off by the in-your-face politics will drive at high speeds right past the stores, but it will be intriguing to monitor success either way.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
13 years 11 months ago

A lot about nothing, except maybe a good way to attract a small core group of pharmacists. From the customers position, this will have a limited appeal to a limited market. Most consumers shop where they could buy cigarettes and alcohol even if they are against the use of them. They just ignore them. Some shop where they cannot buy cigarettes or alcohol if it is convenient and will then go to the store that sells what they want when they want it. A few people will only go to stores that will not sell what they think is wrong.

At the price of gas today, most people will shop for convenience, not a moral stand.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
13 years 11 months ago

ProLife drugstores are no different than Christian bookstores, or stores that sell products focused on women’s issues. The retailers are promoting a lifestyle choice, and then carry products (or in the case of the pharmacies choose not to carry a product) that promotes this lifestyle. Is there anything wrong with it? I don’t think so. Does it have limited appeal? Yes, but it is an interesting niche. Should Walgreens and CVS worry? I don’t think they will lose sleep over it.

The ProLife stores will get great press, and they will have their core customers and loyalists. That said, they won’t make a huge dent in the marketplace.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
13 years 11 months ago

We as Americans have shown a remarkable capacity for ignoring causes when it comes to our wallets. This should be no different. Yes, there are people who will go out of their way to shop at these pharmacies and may even be willing to pay higher prices in support of the cause. My guess is that there will be as many people who would find these pharmacies convenient but refuse to shop there because of that cause. Unlikely to make a big financial splash in the end.

Max Goldberg
Guest
13 years 11 months ago

How small can you carve up a market and remain economically viable? There are some people that will go out of their way to shop at pro-life pharmacies, but with $4.50 gas I don’t think it will be that many. Add this to higher prices in-store and you have a recipe for failure.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
13 years 11 months ago

Pro-Lifer’s are so passionate about their cause that this idea just may work. Christian bookstores seem to do very well as do other stores that cater to specific religious beliefs. Having this type of format removes the possibility for a negative customer interaction as the customer knows that they cannot get family planning products at this location. As well, the pharmacist does not have to perform any task that does not conform within their own beliefs.

I think its a win win for the retailer and the customer but birth control products account for almost 25 percent of scripts in some of the chains I have worked with, so from a business standpoint, obviously they will miss out on potential revenue. But with this issue especially, I think making people happy is paramount to making profit (it really hurt typing that!).

James Tenser
Guest
13 years 11 months ago

Does refusing to dispense birth control pills also mean these pharmacies would not dispense the same hormone therapies when prescribed to women to help ease symptoms of menopause? What about contraceptives prescribed in instances where the mother is on a drug therapy that is known to damage fetuses?

Where does the intrusion into personal choices end? Why should a patient even need to discuss her reasons for making them?

As for the few pharmacies that believe it is somehow relevant to position themselves as no-choice dispensaries, I suppose there is a niche to fill here. I’m always arguing that a retailer needs to stand for something. Well there you are.

As for me, I’ll take my pharmacist with a healthy dose of professional disinterest, thank you very much.

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
13 years 11 months ago
From a marketing perspective, and judging by the number of responses this article has gotten, the concept is a already a success. For a lot of independent pharmacies the “free” advertising will enable them to make themselves known and although they may alienate a few, the publicity will likely bring in more than it deters. Having said all that, it seems to me that there is a failure here of the professional organizations that license pharmacists. I don’t think it is up to someone who chooses a profession to make their own rules. What if every electrician, plumber, or contractor decided they were going to conduct themselves according to their own conscience instead of the building codes? I can understand why some people may have concerns over abortion or the “day after” pill, but the idea of protecting conception seems to take this whole thing to another level. Ideally the government would not have to get involved in personal beliefs and the professional organizations would make sure that people who are licensed offer the full… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
13 years 11 months ago

What happened to consumer choice? If people don’t want to buy or use contraceptives, they will surely not buy them. It isn’t up to pharmacists to dictate. The quotes in the article about pharmacists who refuse to even recommend alternative stores strikes me as a total infringement of the customers’ rights.

I feel VERY STRONGLY that there should be some VERY OBVIOUS signposting upfront so people are warned. I, for one, would refuse to buy anything at all in such a shop and would go out of my way to share my views even if it meant promoting the store to people who agree with its principles. At least then I would know who they were.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
13 years 11 months ago

I must agree with Evan. We already ignore many products that we don’t associate with. Personally, I’m also very tired of everyone beating their chest for their unique causes and expecting me to define myself by those that do or do not turn me on. Friends send emails on political views I don’t care to hear. Rock stars preach vegetarianism (or whatever other cause) during concerts. And now pharmacies aligning themselves by pro life or pro choice? I just don’t feel that it’s their place.

W. Frank Dell II, CMC
Guest
13 years 11 months ago

This concept is unlikely to succeed except is a few locations. Retail is not necessarily the best place to make a political statement and expect to make money. Pro-Life is like organic/natural; there are varying degrees of consumer commitment. These stores may do ok in communities past child baring just by being convenient to shop.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
13 years 11 months ago

This is certainly a consumer niche that could well be served by this pharmacy chain. However, determining which locations have a sizable number of people in this niche market to make it profitable to open a physical outlet could be a challenge.

Their position that makes them attractive to the niche will need to be promoted so the consumers in the niche market are attracted. Unless there is another reason to attract other consumers, they may have a limited market base.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
13 years 11 months ago

To each, his or her own. Bravo to companies that carve out a niche and make it work. There’s a segment of the population that will boycott them, and another segment of the population that will seek them out and buy every toothpaste and shampoo there. Gotta love capitalism.

Warren Thayer
Guest
13 years 11 months ago

Wish I’d been smart enough to say what Bill Bittner just said. IMHO, he really spiked it.

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