Creve Coeur-based Purkinje helps physician offer in-house prescriptions

By Mary Jo Feldstein
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

At the Des Peres Urgent Care Center, when patients leave with a prescription it typically means pills in hand, not a slip of paper to be brought to the pharmacy.

The physicians there worked with Purkinje Inc. of Creve Coeur to set up an in-office dispensing system that includes dozens of the center’s most-frequently prescribed medications. Patients can’t use insurance to buy the drugs from the Des Peres center or Purkinje’s other sites, but most of the medications supplied are generics. Patients pay an average of $10 a prescription.

“For $10, it’s not worth waiting for your prescription,” said Dr. Irwin Plisco, who was one of the founders of the Des Peres Urgent Care Center. “Some of them are $5. For $5, how much is your time worth?”

While the Des Peres Urgent Care Center stocks about 60 different kinds of medications, most family practice or speciality offices need to keep only a couple dozen medications on hand.

Bernie Talley, vice president and general manager for the Purkinje system, said having physicians’ most-commonly prescribed medications available in-house helps patients comply with doctors’ orders. About 20 percent of prescriptions never get filled because patients can’t afford them or find filling them inconvenient.

In-office dispensing also can help physicians generate additional income.

Purkinje figures if a physician makes an average profit of $6.50 per prescription, the office can earn an additional $5,000 a month if 20 patients each fill a couple of prescriptions.

Some large practices with multiple physicians can employ staff to manage the pharmacy business. Others simply lock the drugs in a case and have a nurse or other assistant pull the medications as necessary. State laws differ as to which medical office staff can dispense the medications.

All of the drugs are delivered in pre-counted, pre-packaged, safety-sealed bottles with a clear label that includes dosage instructions.

Purkinje offers physicians three medicine dispensing options depending on the size of practice and the level of software desired.

Purkinje touts itself as the nation’s second-largest pharmaceutical dispensing company to physician offices. Its biggest competitor is Chicago-based Allscripts. Several smaller rivals are scattered across the country.

Purkinje has about 21 medication dispensing accounts with more than 110 physicians in the St. Louis area. It has applications to add 15 more physicians.

Purkinje’s medication repackaging system was in business about 10 years before it was bought by Purkinje in the late 1990s. In 2005, Purkinje, then of Canada, was bought by Wellinx, a Creve Coeur-based physician software company; the merged businesses then adopted the Purkinje name. The medication repackaging business has most of its operations in Chicago.
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