Joseph H. Vicari, Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners, said Ocean County’s senior citizens could be facing a crisis after two chain-store pharmacies unexpectedly closed this month.
Rite Aid stores in the Whiting section of Manchester Township and on Route 37 in Toms River shut their doors with little notice to customers, Vicari said.
“I am afraid this is just the beginning and we could see more closings in the coming weeks,” he said.
Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreens are reeling after a series of opioid-related lawsuits and all three companies have warned that more store closings are on the way.
“The two stores we lost were open one day and closed the next,” Vicari said. “Which pharmacies will be next?”
Vicari penned a letter to Governor Phil Murphy asking for the state’s help to prevent or delay future closings. He also spoke directly with the Governor’s office about the pending crisis.
“I am asking you to consider how our state and county governments can assist not only senior citizens, but also younger people who need doctor-prescribed pharmaceuticals due to sickness or injury,” Vicari said in the letter.
With fewer and fewer pharmacies expected to be operating in the county, there will be added pressure and longer lines at the remaining businesses, he said.
Vicari also questioned what would happen to customers who had prescriptions at closed stores.
“Perhaps the large chain stores can provide a warning notice that a store is closing, giving customer’s time to move their prescriptions,” he said in the letter. “Sixty-day notices seem more reasonable than the abrupt closings we have already experienced. I would also suggest that a phone number be posted on the front door of any closed pharmacy so customers will have a way of contacting the company regarding their prescriptions.”
Vicari, who is also chairman of the Office of Senior Services, said senior communities could be especially hard hit by the closings.
The closed store in Whiting was located in the heart of some of the county’s largest adult communities.
“We also have a large population of seniors aged 85 and older. Many of these men and women depend on prescription medications to keep them healthy and active. They cannot tolerate any disruption to these important medicines,” he said.
The closings could also hit younger residents and children who take doctor-ordered medicines, he said.
In his letter to Murphy, Vicari said different levels of government must work together in an effort to solve this problem.
“I am very hopeful that you can provide guidance and recommendations on how to address this issue before it becomes a full-blown crisis,” he said.
While mail-delivered drugs are also an option, Vicari encouraged residents to remove prescriptions from their mailboxes as quickly as possible.
“Excessive heat or cold can impact a medicine’s effectiveness,” he said. “Please do not leave prescriptions in the mailbox for an extended period of time.”