A Fredericton pharmacist is on a mission to create a pharmacy that goes back to the roots of what a pharmacy is supposed to be: A place for health and wellness.
Paul Bowman opened Bowman’s Pharmasave on Regent Street five months ago. Originally from Scotland where he studied, he moved to Canada in 2004 and worked with big multi-national pharmacies. After spending years working in more corporate chains, he grew wary of what pharmacies have become in North America.
“Over the last few years, I just felt that pharmacy was, in a lot of cases, becoming more and more like a convenience store that just happened to have a pharmacy in it,” says Bowman. “And the service aspect sometimes at some of these bigger box stores…is not the most important thing. I just missed being and having patient interaction on a day-to-day basis.”
So when he moved to Fredericton with his wife Lindsay two years ago, he saw it as an ideal opportunity to open a different kind of pharmacy.
“I wanted to see how I could be different or niche compared what’s currently out there,” says Bowman.
Bowman’s Pharmasave carries over 16 New Brunswick-made health and wellness products including the Yanky, Olivier soaps, even Fredericton-based clothing company Wear Your Label, which aims to reduce the stigma around mental health issues through fashion.
“We also have to work to try and reduce the stigma [around mental health issues] and I love [the company’s] message of trying to do that through fashion. That’s certainly has been well received, now that I stock that here,” says Bowman.
RELATED: Combating Workplace Burnout
Carrying local products have helped Bowman’s business stand out from other pharmacies in the city.
“That’s certainly been a fun and different aspect of our pharmacy and that’s certainly helped bring people through the doors,” he says.
Bowman’s Pharmasave other big differentiator is that it doesn’t sell any junk food.
“It’s harking back more so to what I remember a pharmacy being like growing up in Scotland, where the pharmacy is like a health care destination, so I’ve actively made a decision not to be a convenient store of have chips or pop or frozen foods, milk or eggs or any of those things in my pharmacy,” says Bowman. “I’m trying to promote more a healthy lifestyle and be a health centre and an advocate for people’s health as opposed to a convenience store that just happens to have a pharmacy in it.”
Bowman says the reason why so many pharmacies have gone the convenience store route over the years is mostly due to government regulation and pricing.
“It’s purely economics. I can see why people have done that. I’m not dissing them from that respect … It makes it tougher for the pharmacy to be profitable compared to what they once were,” he says. “That’s encouraged a lot of business owners to try to cast a wider net by having a larger variety of products in their store, because of the change in government price and regulation.”
Yet Bowman has decided to cast a wider net using local health and wellness goods, not Cheetos and cola.
“Where we have these problems in our healthcare system and costs continue to rise, should pharmacists and pharmacies, on one hand, be handing out pop and chips and chocolate bars, then, on the other hand, giving advice on diabetes and high blood pressure? It’s an oxymoron for me and once you actually get that it’s quite easy to hold your line and be strong on that.”
With North America, especially Atlantic Canada, facing the challenges of an ageing population and an overloaded health care system, Bowman says Pharmacies are now starting to play a bigger role in health care and as a resource to patients.
“Pharmacists over the last couple years, through government regulation, have an expanded scope of practice. Pharmacists can do more than they ever could before. It’s not just a matter of dispensing prescription medication,” says Bowman.
“I’m part of a pilot study right now that’s assessing the impact of pharmacists assessing and prescribing urinary tract infections in women, that’s freeing up a burden in emergency rooms and walk-in clinics where women who present with classic symptoms of urinary tract infections don’t have to wait a long time and they can get health care delivered from a pharmacy.”
Bowman’s Pharmacy is still very much a new business but hopes his different approach will resonate with customers enough that he will be able to expand.
“I would like to think and hope that as we progress throughout the years that one, I get this business and pharmacy doing well and being a focal point for the local community as somewhere where they can come for a good healthcare service. Then the hope is, of course, to expand to more sites within the Fredericton area,” he says.
“I’m still very much in the startup mode, but I still believe at the end of the day that there’s a strong component that when it comes down to it, people will still seek you out for a service that you provide, because at the end of the day, we’re all providing the same medication and product, so the differentiator often comes down to the service.”