Craig Sicinski, RPh, Orlando, Fla.

Craig Sicinski, RPhPHARMACY: Orlando Pharmacy, Orlando, Fla.

EDUCATION: Auburn University, Harrison School of Pharmacy

AUSPICIOUS BEGINNINGS: “Orlando Pharmacy has served the area for more than 60 years. It was founded by John Davies in the 1950s and didn’t incorporate until the 1960s, owing to the changing legal landscape. I think we’re the oldest independent in Orlando, but there are a couple of others in our area that would dispute that. John passed away when he was 82 a few years ago, and one of his children is a vice president for an HMO in the Tampa area, and he wasn’t interested in coming back to this store. I’d been looking for a pharmacy for about two years — and my background is retail, having worked at Publix for about seven years, and then Sam’s Club, where I was a pharmacist-in-charge for over nine years. When John passed away, I bought it after larger chains made some bad offers.”

LOCATION AND A COMMUNITY FEEL: “In this neighborhood, we have — on the north edge of Orlando near Winter Park — none of the theme parks, which are south of downtown. Our demographic, then, isn’t tourists, but Medicare-age patients who don’t want to do mail order and don’t want to go to CVS. Now, post-pandemic, we started seeing lots of younger patients and they put us on the map because of the immunizations. We have good Google reviews, which we worked hard for, and it’s a small, boutique feel that people like. We’re trending younger than before, down from a median of 60 years old and now 50 years old. Advent Health, the hospital, owns the building we’re in — and it’s a multi-practice building from the 1960s — and there are only three tenants left because Advent is not renewing leases. So, we’ll be looking for a new home in the next few years. But, back in the day, Avent Hospital — formally Florida Hospital — some of our business came from there. Now they have an outpatient pharmacy. 340B can be a tough market to crack. I am in the medical district and I have some legitimacy because I’m near a hospital, and we have a great name, ‘Orlando Pharmacy,’ which I trademarked when I bought it. It’s a legacy name, and I get a lot of employees in the area who just want to pop in, buy a Coke, buy some Aspirin, and get their COVID-19 tests. We’re like the hidden gem and doctors will come to us for their own care and their family care, too, because of the community feel we have.”

SILVER LININGS: “We were already doing immunizations before 2020, but the pandemic required us to be immunizers — and we have an international community here of people traveling to lots of parts of the world. At one point we were doing 30-40 vaccines a day. I think COVID has done a few things. We are a community pharmacy — we’re not a pretend community pharmacy as some national chains bill themselves. COVID empowered pharmacy technicians. We have a small staff but we have a great, capable staff and on their own, they went ahead and got the certification for immunization. That happened as the pandemic evolved, but the goal all along was to get them trained and certified and they’re doing all the testing and immunization and the questions. That’s a huge deal because that frees me up to do other things. We are also doing a lot of test-and-treat, but not in the classical sense. We test and then we offer recommendations. That’s clinical and that elevates the roles of pharmacists, which other practitioners recognize. In our building, one of the few remaining practitioners is an independent doctor, concierge style who doesn’t accept insurance. He’s a board-certified weight loss management doctor and he refers a lot of folks to us. We have permits in 11 states and I’m licensed in three states, personally, and I’m a U.S. Army veteran. We’re also a designated VOSB, which is veteran-owned small business certification, and I’m in the process of getting registered as a minority-owned business because I’m Hispanic, as well, and that’s really a response to the new world order of environmental, social, and governance, or ESG. These things matter and patients want to see it.”

THE FUTURE IS ABOUT TRANSPARENCY AND FAIRNESS: : “Where is the future for us? Two generations ago, pharmacies might have been challenged by their wholesalers. Now the challenge is with PBMs. I’m the treasurer for Small Business Pharmacies Aligned for Reform, or SPAR, which is about PBM reform, and you talk about the seminal PBM legislation signed in January by Gov. (Ron) DeSantis (R). Well, that legislation never would have happened without DeSantis. There is evidence out there that PBMs are having their cake and eating it, too, and so Florida’s position would have stayed lost in committee, as it has been over the last 15 years. PBMs are there for a reason and they centralize electronic claims almost in real time, but because they are underregulated, they are incentivized for higher drug pricing. Florida will be a battleground state for PBM reform.