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Grand Forks' Inspire Pharmacy not yet profitable, but prescriptions up

A new pharmacy in downtown Grand Forks started off small seven months ago. On April 1, its first day of operation, Inspire Pharmacy filled just two prescriptions. But today, it's filling nearly 50 prescriptions a day on average, which is close to...

Jana Hanson, pharmacist at Inspire Pharmacy, bags up a customer's prescription at the downtown pharmacy Friday. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Jana Hanson, pharmacist at Inspire Pharmacy, bags up a customer's prescription at the downtown pharmacy Friday. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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A new pharmacy in downtown Grand Forks started off small seven months ago.

On April 1, its first day of operation, Inspire Pharmacy filled just two prescriptions. But today, it's filling nearly 50 prescriptions a day on average, which is close to the goal leaders set for the end of the first year of business.

"We're ahead of ourselves," said Judy Swisher, Inspire's pharmacist owner.

Swisher said the pharmacy isn't yet profitable, but they hadn't planned to be early on. She said profits from Inspire Pharmacy will go to the Third Street Clinic, which owns 49 percent of the pharmacy and sits just upstairs from its 360 Division Ave. location, to boost programs the nonprofit provides.

Swisher said Inspire Pharmacy has a sliding fee scale that helps low-income people get prescriptions.

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"Third Street Clinic historically has helped people who fall through the medical cracks," Swisher said. "That definitely is still a population we're working very hard (with) to help with their prescription needs."

That may have contributed to a perception early on that Inspire would only work with Third Street Clinic clients, but that's not the case, Swisher said.

"It is a full-service pharmacy, that's the message we're trying to get out," said Lynnell Simonson Popowski, Third Street Clinic's executive director. She wants people to "understand how having their prescriptions filled there really helps provide the money to provide the low-cost medication to people who need it."

There have been other obstacles along the way, Swisher said. That includes getting on board with various insurance plans, but she believes they're now accepting all of the major plans in the area.

They're also hoping to attract more people from downtown. Swisher pointed to new apartment complexes on University Avenue and North Third Street as opportunities for new customers, as well as young people living downtown.

"We need to make ourselves known," she said. "People tend to be very loyal to their pharmacies. ... But there are people who rarely use a pharmacy who don't have a pharmacy home, so to speak."

Swisher said the various bumps that have come along the way have smoothed out, giving her confidence in the pharmacy's direction.

"I'm just so convinced that we're doing what we need to be doing," she said.

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