Choosing the Right Independent Pharmacy for You -

All pharmacies are not alike. Anybody who has stood in line for half an hour at one of the big pharmacy chains, just to pick up a prescription, can tell you that. Some are slower than others, and all are geared toward getting it done and moving on to the next customer. What if there was an independent pharmacy that prided itself not just on quick turnarounds, but also on personal service, with pharmacists who actually care about your health care needs? These independent pharmacies exist. One in particular — the award-winning Mesilla Valley Pharmacy — can be found right in the heart of downtown Las Cruces.

“It all comes down to how you feel when you leave the pharmacy,” says Jeffrey Stewart, pharmacist-in-charge and co-founder of Mesilla Valley Pharmacy. “When determining whether or not a pharmacy is best for you, it’s best to get a feel for the crew. Get to know the people behind the counter and get a feel for how they interact with their clients and with the medications on behalf of your doctor. Location is important too, obviously, but you’ll know you made the right choice by the time you finish your first transaction.”

The Independent Pharmacy Difference

Jeffrey and business partner Trey Howard have only been in business for a little over five years, but in that time, they have made a name for themselves in Las Cruces, by offering the kind of service people once expected from neighborhood pharmacies.

It all started in their final year at the UNM College of Pharmacy, in 2018, when they entered a business plan competition and won first place with their independent pharmacy plan. With the grand prize cash award, they were able to return to their hometown and start a business of their own. It all came down to giving people what they need, and opening an independent pharmacy fulfilled that desire.

A technician at an independent pharmacy works on a prescription.

“Independent pharmacies have a different budget,” Jeffrey says. “Most chain pharmacies have huge budgets, but they don’t use that money to grow a single store, they use it grow the company across the world. So, while they take the money earned in a certain pharmacy and spread it around to other states or countries, we use that money to put back into the business that generated it. Because of this, we can have a lot more people on our staff than most chain pharmacies. That’s why most chains always seem to be busy and have long lines of people waiting. We utilize our funds to hire the right people to get the job done in a timely fashion.”

It’s this dedication to their work that has earned the duo the notice of the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, which awarded them the 2022 Emerging Business of the Year designation. It also nabbed them first place in 2022 and 2023 as Best Pharmacy in the Bulletin’s annual Best of the Mesilla Valley edition, a competition that is voted on by readers.

What Independent Pharmacies Offer

One of the biggest differences between chain pharmacies and independent pharmacies is compounding, according to Jeffrey. Compounding occurs when an available commercial medication doesn’t work for a particular client and an exception must be made. That can include anything from a specific dose, a special regimen, or a specific type of dispensing unit, or if the medication won’t work in its present form and has to be altered into a nasal spray, an ointment, or some other form of treatment.

“Compounding is a big deal, but it involves customizing medication, and often because of the regulations that have been passed, it’s too expensive for a pharmacy to do it,” Jeffrey says. “Basically, all the big guys stopped compounding medications, but it’s something that independent pharmacies do really well with. We’re able to put money back into the business, so we can buy the lab equipment and other stuff that chain pharmacies don’t want to invest in.”

Many people who are considering making the switch to an independent pharmacy have concerns, which is natural. One of those concerns is low-priced generics. Mesilla Valley Pharmacy has that covered, by offering generics that are as competitive as possible within the area.

They also offer refill synchronization, so that people can pick up all of their medication on the same day, rather than doing so separately, on different days. In addition, they offer all vaccines, including shingles, flu, and COVID-19, though Jeffrey suggests you call first to make sure they have the vaccine in stock at the time. They also accept all insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare.

Another big difference is Mesilla Valley Pharmacy’s community interactions, like vaccine clinics which are conducted regularly at such businesses as the City of Las Cruces, Electric Caregiver, the NMSU Foundation, and White Sands Missile Range.

“We go to the place of business and run their vaccine clinics for them,” says Jeffrey. “So, rather than trust their employees to go to a random pharmacy and deal with long lines, or limited vaccine availability, we just take care of it for them. Employers find that very helpful, especially during flu season, because getting your employees vaccinated can minimize sick days. The employees like it because it’s convenient.”

Probably the most important difference between an independent pharmacy and a big chain is personalized customer service. “Generally, at the corporate level, the interaction you have with the pharmacist is quick and dirty, because they have a quota to fill and have to get back to it,” Jeffrey says.

He continues, “At an independent pharmacy, we believe in the personal touch. We have a consultation room to sit down and go over things like family history, or medication management, and answer any questions they might have. It all comes down to fostering relationships and building connections. It goes a long way in patient care, not only in the physical sense but the mental health aspect as well. We want them to know who they’re dealing with and that we’re there for them.”

The Mesilla Valley Pharmacy sign. MVP is an independent pharmacy.

Making the Switch

Probably the best part of switching to an independent pharmacy is that Mesilla Valley Pharmacy makes it easy. All you have to do is let them know which medications you need to switch over, and the place where you’re currently doing business. They’ll take care of it for you. Options are available. You can go online and fill out a transfer form or give them a call. They’ll take care of it for you.

Because, as Jeffrey admits, it’s all about the experience. “Our main mission is a better pharmacy experience,” he says. “We’ve tried different things, but it always comes down to that. We want our clients to have a great experience with us.”

Mesilla Valley Pharmacy is open six days a week, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. They are closed on Sundays. For more information on Mesilla Valley Pharmacy, visit the website.

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