Calais, Machias Rite Aids to Become Walgreens

By Lura Jackson

 

Pharmacy customers at Rite Aid were among the first to be informed that the Calais and Machias stores will be undergoing a transformation into a Walgreens over the next few years. The pharmacy itself is already mostly integrated into the Walgreens system, while the rest of the store will be overhauled by 2020. The local stores are among 1,932 Rite Aid stores that were acquired in January of 2018 by Walgreens as part of a major corporate acquisition totaling $4.4 billion.

According to a letter received by some Rite Aid pharmacy customers, the already-transitioned Walgreens pharmacy accepts “most insurance plans” and refills can continue to be obtained by calling the same number: 454-2262. As the transition continues, customers will be able to use an online and app-based refill service. The co-pay for some medications may change. 

While the store management in Calais was unable to comment due to corporate policies, Jim Graham, Senior Manager in Media Relations with Walgreens was able to confirm some general details. “For now, the front of the store will continue normal business operations under the Rite Aid brand,” Graham stated. “At this time, the external store signs will remain Rite Aid. However, there will also be a sign on the window of the door indicated that the store is owned by Walgreens, in addition to signs at the pharmacy letting patients know this is a Walgreens pharmacy.” A brochure sent to customers reads that the Calais and Machias stores will be fully transitioned within three years to offer “the full Walgreens experience, including signs, products, services, and customer programs.” Walgreens offers a Balance Rewards program that enables product discounts, which customers will be able to enroll in at a later date. In the meantime, the Wellness+ and Plenti Points programs will continue.

Regarding prescriptions, the brochure states that the co-pay for some medications may change. It also notes that customers will not yet be able to pick up their prescriptions at other Walgreens-only stores, but that they will be able to pick them up at Rite Aids that have been acquired recently by Walgreens. All of the Rite Aid stores in Maine are part of the acquisition, meaning pharmacy customers can continue to pick up their prescriptions at any Rite Aid in the state. Once the transition is complete, pharmacy customers will be able to go to any Walgreens and have their prescription filled. The nearest Walgreens are in Ellsworth, Brewer, and Bangor.

The local staff of the stores and pharmacies will not be changed.

The nationwide-acquisition of Rite Aid stores is the drawn-out conclusion of Walgreens’s attempt to buy their competitor outright in a move to remain viable against CVS Health, which now has 9,600 locations. Walgreen’s overt purchase of Rite Aid was blocked in 2015 by federal anti-trust regulations. Walgreens opted instead to purchase almost half of Rite Aid’s stores, which is the deal that concluded last month. In doing so, Walgreens now has almost as many stores as CVS Health.