As pandemic pushes people to be healthier, pharmacy is ready to help
Since the start of the pandemic, Malley’s Compounding Pharmacy has weathered a prescription-filling rush, a shutdown, a slowdown and then a shift to steady business with more customers focused on prioritizing health and wellness, including adding more supplements to their routine.
“We’ve seen an increase in business with people just wanting to be healthier,” said Anne Henriksen, pharmacist and owner of the Richland pharmacy at George Washington Way and McMurray Street. “People are more in a wellness mindset and interested in supplements to improve their overall health, and we are versed in the different supplements offered, including potential allergens.”
Like all small business owners, it’s been stressful to navigate pandemic challenges. Her team is often stretched nearly to the breaking point with the constant threat of Covid-19 exposures. Then there’s pre-planned vacations or unexpected work absences.
“When you only have six people there on any given day, and then you give lunch breaks, you might have just two people in the front while others are in the back doing other things,” she said. “It’s hard to be able to manage staff, and then do the things you need to do.”
In operation since the 1950s, Henriksen bought the Tri-City landmark with her husband in 2010 after owning another pharmacy location in town.
It wasn’t a dream she initially had while getting her pharmacy degree at Washington State University in Pullman.
Henriksen returned to the Tri-Cities where she had arrived as a teen and come to love the sense of community she found at Richland High.
“I’ve been able to make it what you want it to be,” she said about the drug store she operates with two other pharmacists and a handful of additional staff members, including her husband.
Malley’s stands out for its unique service offering compounding, which includes making medications from raw materials.
“It’s always based on a prescription from a doctor,” Henriksen said. “Compounding is done for a variety of reasons – maybe it’s one particular dose, or a lower dose in a liquid versus a higher dose in a liquid. Often with heart medication for a baby, it’s not made commercially in a low dose a baby would need.” Henriksen said her team works closely with children’s hospitals in Seattle and Spokane to provide medications as prescribed.
Henriksen said typically pharmacies offering compounding services only accept payments in cash, but Malley’s is contracted with all the major insurance companies.
“We work with state Medicaid and all the plans that these children need. I understand how much these bills add up for children with special needs, and it’s important to be able to cover these on their insurance,” she said.
Henriken’s pharmacy recently created medication for a patient in hospice that could be absorbed through the skin instead of by swallowing.
“This helps with agitation that comes with end of life,” she said.
As one of the only compounding pharmacies in Eastern Washington, Malley’s helps with bioidentical hormones, often for menopausal symptoms, and also dispenses veterinary medications.
The onset of the pandemic brought an initial rush to Malley’s as people hurried to fill 90-day supplies of their prescriptions and then hunkered down. The pharmacy pace was temporarily slower than normal for several months in 2020 before rebounding.
Without a drive-thru, Malley’s offered curbside service before the pandemic and still provides the option to customers today.
It tries to offer a more personal relationship with customers. Henriksen described the chain pharmacies as “overwhelmed” and often the only option for patients.
“People often lack a choice in pharmacy,” she said. “We have been pushed out of insurance networks to where people can’t use us. When there’s a level playing field, smaller pharmacies are going to win.” Henriksen is active in state legislative efforts to avoid the squeeze on independently owned drug stores. She encourages people to let her staff check on coverage before allowing an insurance company to tell them a prescription isn’t covered unless filled by a chain pharmacy.
“It’s often said to be more expensive to come to us, and it’s either a negligible amount or not higher at all. Don’t pay a cash price without talking to an independent pharmacy first. We will never do that to you,” she said.
Like all pharmacies, Malley’s has struggled to keep at-home Covid-19 tests in stock. “Our ability to buy them has been extremely difficult,” she said.
Malley’s is open weekdays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and by appointment on Saturdays for urgent needs.
search Malley’s Compounding Pharmacy: 1906 George Washington Way, Richland; 509-943-9173; Malleyspharmacy.com; @malleyscompoundingpharmacy.