Glenn Perreault, R.Ph., is co-owner of Colonial Pharmacy in New London, N.H. He’s no stranger to investing in his business, moving into a brand-new, purpose-built, energy-efficient building in 2018. It includes a compounding lab, and a full consultation and exam room. “We are a busy pharmacy,” says Perreault. “We fill between 7,000 and 8,000 scripts a month in the wintertime and up to 10,000 during our busy season in the summertime. We offer immunizations and we do adherence packaging.”
Seizing an Opportunity
Most recently, Perreault made the move to adherence packaging automation from a manual process. This was not his first foray into robotics, since he had been using vial-filling technology for some time already. But when, this past spring, he got phone calls from two area summer camps that wanted Colonial Pharmacy to package medications for campers, he was looking at an opportunity to add seasonal prescriptions for up to several hundred campers during each of the camps’ two-week sessions. “We were already at the limit of the manual packaging process,” says Perreault, “and there was no way we were going to be able to hand-pack all these new prescriptions.” Perreault had a plan, though, and was ready to say yes to the camps. He’d already had his eye on RxSafe’s RapidPakRx strip adherence packaging automation, which offered a solution to his packaging bottleneck.“The way it worked out, RxSafe was able to onboard us and install the RapidPakRx almost instantly due to a cancellation,” says Perreault.
Perreault reports that RapidPakRx was his go-to choice for a few reasons. “I’d looked around at different packaging automation solutions, and RapidPakRx stood out to me for being really easy to use and very compact,” he says. The RapidPakRx footprint is small enough that Perreault was able to tuck it into a corner of the pharmacy with minimal fit-out. “It needs just about 3 square feet,” he says, “and then a little room for a basket or cart to catch the packaging strip as it comes out of the machine. The only thing we did was install a new network cable drop and add a new source of power that ensures that the automation can run off my generator.”
And then ease of use means that Colonial Pharmacy technicians can start RapidPakRx running and actually start adding medications for the next patient to be processed while it’s running. “The cells are very, very flexible,” says Perreault. “As long as the tablet size is close, we can use those cells for many different medications without any calibration, which helps us keep the packaging process running efficiently.”
Finally, there’s the Rx check system, which uses built-in machine visual inspection. “When the pharmacist goes to check the output,” explains Perreault, “there’s a large image of the actual packet on the check screen and the machine has recognized any issues and highlighted them for the pharmacist. It’s very rare when there’s an actual packaging mistake with RapidPakRx, though.”
The stars aligned nicely around Perreualt’s RapidPakRx investment: He had done his homework and was ready to make the decision; he reached a tipping point in demand with the addition of the summer camp business, and RxSafe was able to get his machine installed right away. The boost in peak-season volume was welcome once Perreault had the right tools to handle it. He also has an interesting insight into getting a return on his investment, for those who may expect packaging supplies to be an added cost to absorb. “We did charge a fee for the packaging for the summer campers,” he says, “but overall we use packaging as more of a retention tool. A lot of our patients using the packaging are taking six or eight medications. And what’s interesting is that once we are packaging somewhere around seven medications, it’s the same cost of materials whether we’re filling vials or strip packaging.”
The Benefits of Section 179 For Pharmacies
There is one more thing that helps make Perreault’s investment a good one: Section 179. This is a provision in the tax code that allows him to elect to deduct the cost of the RapidPakRx as an expense rather than capitalizing and depreciating it over time. This will reduce his taxable income for the year, up to certain limits.
This is the first time Perreault will be using Section 179, and he has worked closely with RxSafe and his CPA to ensure that he receives the full benefit allowed. Perreault, who had just finished paying off his vial-filling robotics when he made the decision to buy the adherence packaging automation, was able to finance the purchase of the RxSafe RapidPakRx through a third-party lender. He arranged to keep the monthly payments the same as he’d been paying for the other automation, so he kept the pharmacy’s finances stable. Section 179 rules allow for deducting the whole cost of an investment like this, even if you are financing it. “It has worked out well,” says Perreault. “RxSafe and the financing company were both very easy to work with and listened to my needs.”
The end result is that Perreault has been able to add the technology Colonial Pharmacy needs to meet new demand and continue growing, without putting a strain on finances. “We’re getting referrals now from neighbor to neighbor,” he says, “and also, area physicians know that we’re offering strip adherence packaging now. So RapidPakRx has been a great tool not just for retention but for winning new patients as well.” CT