Pharmacies remain open and vigilant amid COVID-19 lockdown

Keystone Pharmacy on Cascade Rd says they've seen medical professionals trying to hoard medicine
Posted at 4:51 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 16:59:54-04

GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's order Monday that shut down many of the businesses that remained open, pharmacies still have their doors open to the public. Staff at Keystone Pharmacy on Cascade Road said they have already seen several medical professionals trying to hoard potentially life-saving medications.

“There's a huge uptick in business and its largely just because people are afraid," said Dr. Dave Miller, owner of Keystone Pharmacy.

Despite the governor's "stay home, stay safe" order announced Monday, pharmacies and other essential businesses will remain open to customers. Keystone Pharmacy, one of the only compounding pharmacies in West Michigan, will continue to serve patients through their drive-thru window.

“We're trying to limit the amount of people that come in and out of the store, just to limit the exposure of my staff to the patients and the patients to the staff. So we're having to get creative, we're using our drive-thru window exclusively," Miller said.

The staff has already had to limit the amount of some medications patients can buy due to several customers trying to buy inordinately large amounts.

“There was a study that came out of China that showed hydroxychloroquine had activity against the coronavirus in a test tube. These studies are being replicated all over the world in people," Miller told FOX 17. "Last week we had some very unscrupulous doctors that have tried to obtain hundreds of doses of hydroxychloroquine for them and their family that could potentially put other people at risk.”

Miller says because of people attempting to hoard hydroxychloroquine, it is already become very difficult to obtain.

"We’re being limited now from our wholesalers now too because of this virus," he said. "Now this is creating a real problem for the people that need it."

Miller says the drug is traditionally used by patients dealing with arthritis and lupus. The current shortage could leave these patients unable to find the medication they need.

But it's not just drugs with potential therapeutic uses against COVID-19 that people are buying in bulk.

“We had a patient stopping last week who wanted to buy 10 bottles of Tylenol for her and her family. We thought that was a bit excessive. So we denied that," Miller said. Because they are seeing more and more of this, Keystone is having to place a limit on over-the-counter purchases as well.

Miller feels that Whitmer should go as far as to introduce legislation to impose serious penalties for certain instances of hoarding medication.

"I would like to call on the legislature and Gov. Whitmer to enact emergency legislation to prevent hoarding. And I would like to see that possibly include manslaughter charges if somebody hoards a medication and later somebody else dies because they're not able to obtain the medication they can.

Because Keystone Pharmacy is a compound pharmacy, they are able to produce many medications on site.

"If a medication is unavailable and I have access to the powder to make it, we can certainly replicate the product you’re getting, as long as its not on the market," Miller said.

A guidance put out by the Food and Drug Administration last week will allow Keystone, and other compound pharmacies, to begin compounding hand sanitizer as well.

"The difficulty is getting the alcohol, the starting ingredient, but we expect to have some of the 99% alcohol within a couple weeks," Miller said Monday.

All of the staff at Keystone working tirelessly to ensure the people of their community have access to the things they need in this difficult time.

"I have a tremendous staff. And yes, they are rallying to help take care of our customers, they're rallying so well," Dr Miller said. "It makes me very emotional what they're doing to help our patients because they've all got kids at home that are out of school. So they're in a very difficult situation... it's very incredible and very inspiring what they're doing."