Temporary closure at Portland Rite Aid pharmacy upsets patient

Pharmacies have been under extra stress the past few years. Last week, it appears to have affected patients’ access to their meds.

PORTLAND, Oregon — Renae Corbett has been going to the Rite Aid pharmacy at Northeast 60th Avenue and Prescott Street to pick up her medication for the past decade.

“I’m on heart medication, diabetes medication and an anti-viral that stops the progression of my disease,” said Corbett.

She said getting prescriptions there was fine until recently.

“What’s going on is that they closed the pharmacy unexpectedly last week without notification, and I and other folks could not get our meds for four days,” said Corbett.

The prescriptions were filled, sitting on a shelf in a closed pharmacy.

“The problem with that is this pharmacy had already processed those prescriptions. So my anti-viral is $280. My insurance had already paid for that, so they weren’t gonna pay again. That left me to not have my meds or pay $300 and seek reimbursement,” added Corbett, a former nurse. 

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Like other service industries, pharmacists and pharmacy techs get burned out by various stresses and strains. So while the number of licensed pharmacists is actually up 3% the past few years in Oregon, “we may have a shortage of pharmacists willing to work in some settings,” said John Schnabel, executive director of the Oregon Board of Pharmacy.

Schnabel said he’s appreciative of the state’s hard-working pharmacists, and said complaints about closures or long lines at pharmacies has recently gotten a little better, but situations like the one Corbett is facing is still an issue.  

“That has become a problem. And if a patient goes without their medication because they can’t get it out of a pharmacy, the board is concerned about that situation happening.” 

He added that the board recently developed new rules that require pharmacies to alert patients of closures through signs and phone announcements. 

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Corbett said she’s not upset with local Rite Aid employees, saying, “I feel bad for them. They got a lot of extra stress this week, and the manager here was very nice.”

Corbett said she was told the regular pharmacist at the Rite Aid on 60th and Prescott went on vacation and her replacement never showed up, causing the closure. She told KGW she tried repeatedly to get answers from Rite Aid corporate and never got a call back.

“I’m done with them. Never again. I can’t be put in that position. I have a heart stent, I could die without my heart medication,” said Corbett.

KGW reached out to Rite Aid’s corporate communications department Saturday, but so far we have not heard back.

In the event of an unexpected closure, the Oregon Board of Pharmacy suggests patients try another chain pharmacy location to try to get a prescription retrieved or refilled, or to ask your provider for help.

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