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Hanover Pharmacy Falls To Mail Order Competition

A popular, long-running drug store on the main street of Hanover, New Hampshire has closed its doors. Eastman’s Pharmacy says it can no longer compete with larger businesses, especially now that Dartmouth Hitchcock employees with workplace insurance must get their long-term medications through the mail.

Eastman’s has been a retail icon in downtown Hanover since the late 1930’s. Now it’s selling its inventory to CVS down the street, where customers will have to transfer their prescriptions, if they don’t switch to a mail order service. 

All day long on Wednesday, loyal supporters poured in to say good-bye and shop for bargains.  Some brought gifts for owners Melissa and Mark Knight. They bought the place in 2005. But  Mark says it’s become tough to compete with robots.

“The insurance companies can make more money by doing it themselves, and mailing it to you. So you wouldn’t go into the pharmacy to fill it, they have an assembly line-like fashion of filling prescriptions. A robot fills it, the pharmacist checks it to make sure it’s the right thing in the bottle and then they ship it to you,” Knight said.

But many of Eastman’s customers want more personal attention.

Mary Lou Guerinot, a professor at Dartmouth College, has been coming to Eastman’s for 29 years. When CVS opened up nearby, Guerinot and her husband refused to patronize it.

“Well, I like a family owned business, and I liked being able to just walk in, they know who you are, you phone, they know who you are by just your voice on the telephone, yeah, it’s pretty amazing,” she said.

Now the Guerinots will have to get their prescriptions at another store or through the mail.

Eastman’s owner Mark Knight says insurance rules have raised out-of-pocket expenses for many of his customers.

“Money’s money, the bottom line, I don’t care if it’s $5 or $10 or a $100. We had one case with a town employee where the co-pay was $25 for a brand name drug for a 30 day supply and then when he went to re-fill it a third time it was $99,” Knight said.

So he’s lost sales like that. Knight says his profit margins were already razor thin when, this January, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center set new rules for its employees that have cut further into his business. Insured workers must now get long-term maintenance medications in 90-day prescriptions through a mail service offered by Dartmouth’s own pharmacy, or by CVS. Dartmouth Hitchcock Benefits Manager Aimee Giglio says it will pass some of the cost savings to employees in the form of lower prices.

“But also to be able to re-invest the money we do save back into our community with local jobs and other things that impact our patients and our families,” Giglio said.

Giglio says Dartmouth Hitchcock needs to trim its own bottom line to deliver high quality affordable care. But for at least one local pharmacy, one impact will be closure. Melissa Knight will continue to make compounds for other pharmacists. Her husband Mark says he's not yet sure what his next career step will be.