Walking into Boyd’s Pharmacy on Broad Street in Florence Township, it’s almost second-nature to employees to greet familiar faces that enter the storefront by name, perhaps with a light joke or maybe even catch up with some friendly conversation.
It’s this personal touch with the community that has been the trademark of Boyd’s Pharmacy’s services beyond the sale of prescription drugs for 97 years, a milestone achievement, which the family celebrated on Feb. 19.
Today, Boyd’s in Florence is currently owned by L. Clark Boyd III and his wife Carolann. With the assistance of their three children – James R. Skeenes Jr., Lardner C. Boyd IV and Caron Boyd Cullen – the family is working to carry on the business with four generations of pharmacists and patients. Alongside the pharmacy on Broad Street, Boyd’s has grown since its founding in 1923 by Lardner Clark and Frederica McLaughlin Boyd to expand to four more locations in Bordentown, Mansfield, Pemberton and Medford. To date, 15 pharmacists and more than 60 employees are employed at all locations.
“This is a family-owned independent pharmacy that has a deep connection with their patients,” Boyd III said. “We consider patients part of our family.”
“We have employed a lot of people in the town,” Carolann Boyd said. “We are working on fourth generation people being hired as employees and fourth generation people as patients.”
In line to head the family business someday, Cullen said she was inspired by her father to instill a business that serves its community outside of its storefront and plans to carry on that tradition.
“I have grown up watching my father be interactive with his community and patients,” she said. “He has a rapport with the town and community, and knows that they want to come in and talk with him. We sponsor local events and teams. We are sponsoring Little League and softball or a catfish tournament down at the dock, or whatever is going on with the administration like a retirement dinner. We try to put a little in everybody’s bucket.”
Meanwhile, Boyd IV said that working in his parents’ Florence location has been a privilege to him to serve his community, as well as the flexibility it offers outside of corporate businesses.
“It’s what I love to do – being able to make an impact and help a patient, their family member or the patient’s family,” Boyd IV said. “All the same laughs, hugs and jokes of working with your family are all here. The most rewarding part is not having to go through the bureaucracy of big chains and big business. You get to vent a little here and get to be able to make the patient feel safe, go home and feel better. Having that leeway in a family business means a lot.”
Although the Boyd family has enjoyed 90-plus years of service to the community, Boyd III explained that the business hasn’t been prone to growing competition in the area as well as what he believes is unregulated practices in the healthcare industry.
Festive balloons and a banner situated outside the storefront may have had a customer believe a party was going on inside the Florence pharmacy on Feb. 19, but employees worked straight through the commemorative day in an effort to fight back what Boyd III believes is crippling independent pharmacies: Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs).
“We are very proud to be here, but are very sad to be losing our patients,” Boyd III said. “The past two years have been a financial struggle with PBMs. I feel they are solely responsible for the rising cost of prescriptions.”
A PBM is defined as a company that administers the drug benefit program for an employer or health plan. PBMs process and pay prescription drug claims, and are responsible for creating and updating a patient’s health plan drug formulary. This is designed to aggregate the collective buying power of enrollees through their client health plans, which enables plan sponsors and individuals to obtain lower prices for prescription drugs.
Independent pharmacies across the country like Boyd’s are struggling now though to cope with the consolidation of three large PBMs — CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and OptumRX – which make up more than 70% of claims volume.
So how much does that consolidation directly affect an independent pharmacy like Boyd’s? The storeowner said that patients are driven to PBM-owned pharmacies and mail-order pharmacies through contracts that provide lower co-payments at these preferred stores.
“The reason for this is to capitalize on market share through non transparent, unregulated means and with no oversight,” Boyd III said. “These PBMs reimburse their pharmacies through discriminatory means where they are paid more than the local pharmacies.”
The Florence pharmacy owner revealed that a patient of his for more than 60 years had a co-pay on their medication at Boyd’s for $48. Boyd III explained if that patient goes to CVS, their co-pay is only $22.
“The drug cost $35,” he said. “We have to put an end to these parallel monopolies and somehow bring back the freedom of choice where it’s a level playing field for everyone. Otherwise, pharmacies like [Boyd’s] will not exist.”
With a drive toward PBM-owned pharmacies and unregulated mail-order prescriptions, Boyd III said he has already taken several steps to address this matter at a legislative level. He said in November 2019, he went before the New Jersey Board of Pharmacy concerning the proper handling, storage, delivery and security of drugs delivered via mail.
“Drugs are being dropped off on doorsteps and mailboxes non-secured and exposed to outside temperatures,” he said. “The only proper way for a mail-order delivery will be a direct delivery with a captured signature from a climate-controlled vehicle. It’s that simple, yet the Board of Pharmacies has still not taken action. The message here is to call your congressmen and Board of Pharmacy, and put an end to these practices. You have a right to freedom of choice and a fair price on your prescription.”
To date, eight CVS pharmacies and 10 Walgreens locations are all within an hour’s drive of the Boyd’s in Florence.
On Feb. 13, the Bordentown Township Planning Board approved preliminary and final site plans for the construction of another CVS location at the corner of Farnsworth Avenue and Route 130, a stone’s throw away from the Boyd’s Bordentown City storefront.
With an increase in corporate pharmacies surrounding this family business, Cullen said she is calling on municipal and state officials to step up to protect independent pharmacies from unfair business practices.
“We have very faithful and loyal customers, and so much support from the towns,” she said. “Now, we have to take action where we need our administrators, planning boards, mayor, and big companies here that may go and choose an insurance plan for their employees – they need to hear our voice on what insurance companies are blocking independent, small businesses out.”
Until legislative action is put in place though to perhaps give more fairness toward independent pharmacies to operate, Cullen stated that Boyd’s will remain contingent on providing additional services unmatched by chain storefronts.
“If the store is closed on a Sunday after hours and someone needs an emergency refill on their prescription, people know they can call us,” she said. “If you need us, we are here. You can get to us at any time, and we will help with anything we possibly can. We are most proud of being in touch and in tune with our patients.”