What Happens to Rite Aid Pharmacists After the Walgreens Acquisition?

OCTOBER 27, 2015
What will quickly make the rounds on social media is the news that Walgreens is acquiring Rite Aid. This transaction is both interesting and troubling.

I remember when Rite Aid went through financial difficulty and watched its stock plummet over a decade ago. I was living in Pennsylvania at the time and heard that many people in the region suddenly lost a lot of personal investments.
 
It's amazing when you look back and see that at one point in time, Rite Aid stock was worth around $50 a share, which was better than CVS and Walgreens stock.

While investors will be sure to clamor on this bandwagon, pharmacists working for Rite Aid may be concerned. Since Rite Aid is the third-largest pharmacy chain in the country and a large employer of pharmacists, it’s normal to wonder what will happen to its pharmacists.
 
When CVS announced that it was buying Target's pharmacy business, many pharmacists feared that they would lose their jobs. But the issue is much larger in this case.
 
While Target’s transfer to CVS can rest on the notion that the pharmacies themselves will not close and Target pharmacists’ jobs are relatively secure, that may not be a guarantee in Rite Aid’s case.

For instance, what will happen to Rite Aid stores located across the street from Walgreens ones or those in the same neighborhood? You can't exactly have 2 pharmacies “at the corner of happy and healthy,” right? These are just a few of the unanswered questions about Rite Aid pharmacists’ jobs.
 
The other big issue is graduating pharmacists and overall employment rates for pharmacists in the country, especially with job interview season in swing. Could this be the start of large-scale pharmacist unemployment? We will have to wait and see how things turn out.

The best-case scenario is that most Rite Aid stores with no Walgreens in their locale just transfer over, which would just mean new training and systems for most Rite Aid pharmacists. But pharmacists working at a Rite Aid located near a Walgreens may be in a difficult position.
 
Will these pharmacists be incorporated into present Walgreens stores in order to keep up with the likely increased script count from transfers, or will they lose their jobs? One example we may be able to learn from is when Walgreens bought all Rite Aid stores in San Francisco years ago. 

We still don't know how the federal government will response to Walgreens’ acquisition, so the next few days or weeks will be telling for what comes next in community pharmacy. How pharmacy technician unions respond to the deal is another issue that will need to be addressed.

On a positive note, it is likely that this change will not occur overnight. Just as CVS is still working out the Target deal, Walgreens will have to spend a good deal of time restructuring after this purchase, so Rite Aid pharmacists may not feel the impact for a few years, which should give many of them a chance to catch their bearings.

Timothy Aungst, PharmD
Timothy Dy Aungst, PharmD, is an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at MCPHS University. He graduated from Wilkes University Nesbitt School of Pharmacy and completed a PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency at St. Luke's University Hospital, and then a Clinical Geriatric Fellowship at MCPHS University. He is passionate about the rise of technology in health care and its application to pharmacy. He has published primarily on the role of mobile technology and mHealth, and made multiple national and international presentations on those topics. He blogs at TheDigitalApothecary.com, and you can find him on Twitter @TDAungst.
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