H1N1 keeps pharmacies crowded

Published 11:59 pm Thursday, August 27, 2009

As the H1N1 “swine” flu continues to make its way through Covington County, local pharmacy owners are reporting an increase in business and also doing their part to keep their employees healthy.

Neal Pressley, pharmacist and owner of Larry’s Prescriptions in Opp, said his business saw a large influx of customers earlier this month, but the rush tapered off slightly in recent days.

“This week has not been as bad so far,” he said. “It was really a few weeks ago, back shortly after school started. We’ve definitely seen an increase in customers, and it’s especially busy compared to the level of business we normally see in August.”

Bobby Scott, pharmacist and owner of Mallette Drug Company in Andalusia, said his pharmacy has been busy as well.

“We’ve seen a fairly large number of kids, but some adults as well,” he said.

Scott said he expects the pharmacy fills orders for 15-20 flu patients each day, and it is important for his employees to stay protected against the virus.

“Obviously, our employees stay away from the patients’ faces if they come in here coughing or anything like that,” he said. “Our employees also sanitize several times a day, and we try to use Lysol (aerosol air freshener) after a flu patient leaves. So far, we’ve been lucky and have been able to keep all our employees healthy.”

Pressley said his pharmacy has not had any shortage of hand sanitizer, which the Centers for Disease Control has recommended as an effective method of preventing the spread of the flu. However, he did say that the prescription drug Tamiflu has sold quickly and Larry’s Prescriptions had to make several special orders to keep up with the demand.

“We have the Tamiflu now,” he said.

Scott said Mallette Drug Company was proactive in preparing for the re-emergence of the H1N1 flu. The strain hit in the spring earlier this year, but scientific experts predicted the flu would make a return in the late summer and early fall.

“We knew it was coming back and so we prepared our inventory ahead of time,” he said. “We’ve got plenty of hand sanitizer, Tamiflu and Relenza (another flu drug).”

In addition, Scott said employees try to expedite flu patients’ orders.

“We’re usually able to handle the volume of prescriptions, and typically it’s a short wait for the customer,” he said. “We definitely want to get our customers the medicine quickly and get them home quickly, so they can get better and they won’t infect other people.”