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Dean of pharmacy school gives take on industry, students still think University could do more

<p>The Hurtado Health Center, located on the College Avenue campus, is one of several student pharmacies at Rutgers that provide discounts on products and medicine.</p>

The Hurtado Health Center, located on the College Avenue campus, is one of several student pharmacies at Rutgers that provide discounts on products and medicine.

The closing of Rutgers Health Services pharmacies reflects larger industry changes, said John Colaizzi, dean emeritus of the University’s Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy. 

“The closure of the student pharmacy reflects factors that have contributed to the closures of hundreds of brick-and-mortar pharmacies nationwide,” he said. “They include the increasing use of mail-order pharmacies, driven by incentives that insurance companies offer to patients, and the significant reduction in reimbursements that pharmacies receive from insurance companies.”

Despite the changes, some students feel that Rutgers could do more to save the discounted drug suppliers. 

Chloe Andreas, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, recently started a petition against the University’s decision to close the on-campus pharmacies. 

More than filling prescriptions, the pharmacies provided much-needed discounts on other products, Andreas said.

“Shampoo, acne wash, lotion, cold medicine, a whole wall of condoms and snacks. Anything you could find at CVS or Rite Aid, you could find it at the student pharmacies, just cheaper,” she said.

The change is both inconvenient and frustrating, Andreas said.

“I have had multiple prescriptions filled there following appointments at the health center or at Counseling, Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program & Psychiatric Services (CAPS). But, losing these pharmacies will affect more than just where people get their prescriptions,” she said. “A lot of my friends really appreciated their discounted condoms and I can’t afford condoms or Plan B outside of the student pharmacies.”

Amid student complaints, Colaizzi said that Rutgers students can visit physical pharmacies that are close to campus.

“Rutgers students who want a brick-and-mortar pharmacy still have plenty of options close to campus, such as the pharmacies within Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Saint Peter’s University Hospital, and the large number of retail pharmacies in the area,” he said.

The decision to close the on-campus pharmacies also comes from a need to improve mental health resources and increase funding for programs like CAPS.

“I do agree that CAPS is understaffed. I have requested to see a therapist weekly, and I was told that they don’t have enough therapists for me to occupy a weekly or biweekly appointment. However, I don’t think that closing all student pharmacies is the way to accomplish this,” Andreas said.

Some students find the timing of this decision frustrating, as the RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center was just recently built for $115 million, which was money that came from Athletics fundraising and tax credits. 

“Just because not many people use the pharmacies doesn't mean that they should be closed. Not many people are on these athletic teams either, but that money is able to be spared for the athletic department. Everyone needs medication. No one needs a state-of-the-art training facility,” she said.

For the University's pharmacy students, the industry changes that led to the closures of on-campus pharmacies should not be concerning, Colaizzi said.

“The Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy prepares its students for successful careers in the changing pharmacy landscape,” he said. “The profession is booming in many ways, particularly as pharmacists take leadership roles in healthcare teams at emergency rooms, ICUs, surgical suites, clinics and other settings. Retail pharmacies remain a strong employer of new graduates from our school and of current students who work as pharmacy technicians.”

The Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy also runs the largest pharmaceutical industry fellowship program in the country, for new pharmacists seeking to join the pharmaceutical or biomedical industries, Colaizzi said.

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