The only independent compounding pharmacy in Juneau, and one of just a handful in the state, is closing its doors next week. Ron’s Apothecary Shoppe, which first opened its doors in Juneau in the 1970s, is going out of business as its owners retire.
Compounding pharmacies provide customized medications made on site to meet the needs of patients who have reactions to normal medication compounds. They have special ventilated labs and are licensed by the state to mix pharmaceuticals. Dosages for premature infants in neo-natal care units, for example, would fall into the compounding category. So might hormone therapies for people with certain complicating conditions.
The closest full-service compounding pharmacy for Juneau and surrounding residents is now Anchorage’s Bernie’s Pharmacy. This could pose a major problem or inconvenience for some patients around northern Southeast Alaska, where Juneau is the center of medical services.
The current clients at Ron’s Apothecary will be sent to the Safeway pharmacy in Juneau, and the employees at Ron’s have been offered jobs at that Safeway location. But it doesn’t mean Safeway can take over the custom medications for patients that have needs that can’t be met through mass-produced products.
The departure of Ron’s Apothecary leaves only Juneau Drug as the remaining independent pharmacy in Juneau. Located on the corner of Seward Street and Front Street, the pharmacy counter is now just a seasonal offering that is open during cruise season. It is not a compounding pharmacy.
The closure of yet another independently operated pharmacy is part of a nationwide trend. According to the Rural Policy Research Institute, the overall number of retail pharmacies declined in rural micropolitan areas (those towns with populations between 10,000 and 50,000) by 4.4%, while pharmacies increased in number in metropolitan areas by 15.1% between 2003 and 2021. Many of the pharmacies in rural areas are traditional stand-alone independents, but they are disappearing features of small-town America.
In Fairbanks, Alaska Family Pharmacy, and North Pole Alaska Family Pharmacy are compounding pharmacies. Soldotna has one as well, Soldotna Pharmacy. The only one in Anchorage is Bernie’s Pharmacy, an independent pharmacy that provides compounding services to the entire state. Some compounding pharmacies at Native medical centers are only available to Alaska Natives and Native Americans, which is a fraction of the general public.