APRIL 2022 - When Benoit Morin and his brothers, Jean-François and Stéphane, took over their father’s Montreal pharmacy 22 years ago, they determined that success required embracing new directions. “We looked at how we could respond to demands not being answered in the marketplace,” says Morin.
As a result, when the scope of pharmacy practice steadily expanded in Quebec, the Morins were well-positioned to take full advantage. “We have wanted to expand our scope of practice since 1990. Now it has happened, and all pharmacies in Quebec are able to do what we wanted to do from the start,” says Morin, who is also President of the provincial pharmacy association, the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires (AQPP).
The first niche service for Pharmacie Morin, a member of the Proxim group of pharmacies, was medication compliance packets for patients in long-term care homes. “Twenty years ago, we did this by hand. We had to heat the plastic packaging then seal it,” recalls Morin.
Today the process is fully automated—and autonomous. In a separate building beside the pharmacy, the PACMed robotic system generates up to 60 pouches of medications a minute and inspects them based on tablet size, shape and color.
Pharmacie Morin currently serves the medication needs of 23 long-term care homes and is at capacity. “We have reached a point where there is no space or room to grow,” says Morin, adding that they are considering moving the operation or affiliating with another pharmacy in order to continue to expand.
For their second niche service, the brothers entered the world of infusions and compounding. They converted the basement of their 2,500-square-foot pharmacy into a lab where credentialed staff prepare sterile products, including IV antibiotics and morphine syringes, and compound medications. These services are covered by public and private insurance, notes Morin.
Specialized training is also required for their third niche area: palliative care. Working with a nurse and doctor to keep patients at home as long as possible, Morin’s team prepares medications and offers medication support. For these home visits, the pharmacy uses the Synmed automation system to prepare the medication packs. In addition, a team of technicians and pharmacists who are specially trained in palliative care manage prescriptions and answer patients’ questions.
More than half of the team of 18 pharmacists and 40 pharmacy technicians can work in the lab and palliative care. The diversity of work is an advantage for recruitment and retention. “It’s not the same thing every day. People are grateful,” says Morin.
In the community pharmacy itself, the team is busy doing everything they can to practice to their full scope, most often serving elderly and vulnerable populations. Currently the most in-demand services are COVID vaccinations, prescribing the antiviral drug Paxlovid to treat COVID-19 and prescribing for minor ailments, says Morin.
He adds that pharmacists roughly split their time 50/50 between dispensing medication and counselling patients. Automated dispensing helps the pharmacy team maximize efficiency.
In business since 1947, Pharmacie Morin currently employs 130 employees, including a general manager. This position, unusual for a community pharmacy, has been a cornerstone of the pharmacy’s success. “We knew we needed help to organize the various operations and help us grow,” says Morin.
Revenue has more than tripled since the brothers took over the pharmacy and billings for services rose rapidly during the pandemic. While government-funded services account for only about five percent of revenue at this point, the brothers are confident of continued steady growth. “Our desire to explore new directions and invest in technology are key to our success,” says Morin. “This has enabled our team to specialize and focus their attention on the patient, rather than the product.”