Laguna Drug Strikes Deal With CVS

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By Charlie Warner, Special to the Independent


The owners of Laguna Drug have negotiated a deal to cede operations of the Broadway Street storefront to the CVS pharmacy chain, but city officials have so far rejected the arrangement.

Laguna Drug will continue to operate if CVS cannot obtain a conditional use permit, said Michael Henn, chief financial officer of Quality Drug Corporation. The Laguna Beach-based company operates Laguna Drug as well as Via Lido and Coast Hills Pharmacy, both located in Newport Beach.

City records show CVS submitted an application for a conditional use permit in September, which was deemed incomplete by city planner Anthony Viera in October.

CVS is expected to submit a corrected application, though Viera couldn’t say when. The original application failed to specify how the building will be different than other CVS locations, Viera said in rejecting the application. When the application is resubmitted, the permit request will undergo review in a public hearing, he said.

While Quality Drug has a continuing lease on the property, Henn said, “we have signed an agreement with CVS that once a conditional use permit is granted, they will take over the location.”

Laguna Drug describes itself as an HIV pharmacy, with HIV specialists and programs to help its customers. “Quality Drug is not selling its HIV prescription business. It will continue to serve its HIV customers at a new location in the event that Laguna Drug changes hands,” said Henn.

CVS, which also operates a store in the Aliso Creek Shopping Center in South Laguna, intends to retain Laguna Drug employees and continue to provide home delivery service to HIV patients in Laguna Beach, Stephanie Cunha, a CVS spokeswoman in Woonsocket, R.I., said in a statement. Besides pharmacy and vaccination services, the store inventory will include snacks, health, beauty and personal care products, she said.

The necessity of a convenient local source for HIV/AIDS medications is apparent. The Laguna Beach Community Clinic is the only provider of HIV/AIDs care in south county, serving a community with the highest incidence of HIV per capita in the county, according to the clinic’s November newsletter. The clinic provides 900 HIV/AIDs related patient visits a year.

Pharmacists at other local drug stores, Bushard’s Pharmacy and Laguna Sunset Drug, however, both say they also stock HIV/AIDS prescription medications.

For CVS to obtain a conditional use permit, the company needs to explain how the interior will be unique and avoid a “formulaic approach,” Viera’s report said.



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