Vol. LXI, No. 20
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
PERSONAL SERVICE: "Here, we keep the same employees, and we welcome the patients and do our best to help with their problems. We go out of our way to get medicines the same day, if possible, and we will also obtain hard-to-get medicine. We try to help with customer's insurance problems, and we call their doctor to get refill prescriptions. We have a pharmacist on call 24 hours." Steven Zagoreos, owner of the Princeton Pharmacy, is shown with his daughter-in-law, pharmacist Donna Zagoreos (left) and technician Colleen Goeke.
In an age of diminishing independently-owned stores and rapidly increasing chains, The Princeton Pharmacy, Princeton's home town apothecary shop, is a reassuring presence.
Located on the first floor of the Princeton U-Store, it opened in 1989, and has become a mainstay in town. Proprietor Steven Zagoreos, who also owns The McGrath Pharmacy in Lawrenceville and The Monument Pharmacy in Trenton, has seen a myriad of changes in the business since he began working in the 1960s.
"When I graduated from Pharmacy School, one professor said: 'Your license will make you safeguard medicines that will change people's lives.'" 45 years later, those medicines that altered symptoms now alter body functions. A medication that targets one system can affect another system. There are interactions when two drugs are introduced together, and both aim for the same site.
"In past times, as pharmacists, we used to 'count, pour, lick, and stick!' That is, we would count the pills, pour them into the bottle, and stick on the label. Now, doctors are asking pharmacists for advice regarding interaction of medications. In the old days, we used a typewriter; now everything is computerized."
"My daughter-in-law, Donna, pharmacist in charge at Princeton, has a CCP degree: Certified Consultant Pharmacist. It's important for people to know someone who understands medicine interactions. She is aware of these interactions, and can suggest changes, if necessary. She is also an expert in long-term care, assisted living, and medications for the elderly. In fact, we have special arrangements with a number of assisted living facilities to provide patients' prescriptions."
A family business now, with pharmacist Donna Zagoreos in Princeton, and Mr. Zagoreos' son Bill, pharmacist at McGrath's in Lawrenceville, it offers both up-to-date service and old-fashioned care very important in our high tech age of pressure-cooker living and a more impersonal society.
Customers at the Princeton Pharmacy include university students (25 percent) and Princeton residents. Many have had long and loyal relationships with the pharmacy.
"I really like the Princeton Pharmacy so much," says a long-time Princeton customer. "It's like going to 'Cheers' everyone is so friendly it can change your mood. And you know you can count on them. Medications are safe, and the doses are accurate. Also, parking is easy, but if you can't get there, they will deliver."
"People are taking more medicine, and the drugs work far more powerfully and intricately than they used to," points out Mr. Zagoreos. "35 years ago, you could remember the interactions in your head, Now, there are so many, they're all on the computer.
"It's very important to take time to explain things to people and reassure them, if necessary," he adds. "It's great when you can say to someone, 'You have a normal problem. It's not life-threatening. You're not going to die.'"
Quality and Safety
People are concerned, too, about the quality and safety of their medications. It is encouraging to know that this is a number one priority of the Princeton Pharmacy. "We buy pills from a supplier, the fourth or fifth largest in the nation," says Mr. Zagoreos. "We know we can rely on their quality, and people can rely on their safety. We don't get anything from off-shoot suppliers."
Customers are also focused on generic drugs, he continues. "In the case of generics, it's important to trust your pharmacy. Ask what company makes them. You can also check it out online. Customers are getting more knowledgeable. They know more about the body than ever before."
HMOs, insurance companies, and the government have also all had a major impact on the pharmacy business, he observes. "The pharmacist does not control the prescription once it is filled. The insurance company decides what the individual customer's cost is. There are 10,000 different insurance prescription plans. The biggest challenge is keeping up with the laws, the drugs, the medical insurance all the rules and regulations."
With the advent of new drugs and new technology, people are living longer and generally healthier lives, he adds. "People are being saved in ways they never were before. Advances in medicine are incredible."
Drugs that are especially in demand today include Lipitor and other statins to lower cholesterol; Nexium for acid reflux; hormone pills, and anti-inflammatories, such as Motrin and Celebrex, he reports.
"Also, there are a lot of psychotropic pills for depression and anxiety. A lot of people are stressed today. Their lives are so rushed and pressured. More people are concerned about their bodies, their health, and their symptoms."
He points out that there are many reasons for anxiety today. "There's the pressure of work, pressure of school for kids, heavy demands, high expectations. Everything is very structured for kids now. They don't just go out and play anymore. More kids are on medications today for conditions such as ADHD and depression, asthma, and other allergies. High blood pressure is starting younger, and also diabetes is affecting younger people. These are conditions that can be influenced by life-style."
Exercising one's mind is just as important as exercising one's body, believes Mr. Zagoreos. "It's vital to keep the mind active. An active mind can be helpful to the immune system. Sometimes when people retire and do nothing, they feel they're not important and have lost their purpose. Then, they get sick."
Mr. Zagoreos plans to keep very busy overseeing his three pharmacies, at the same time stepping back a bit to let the second generation step forward. "It is a family business now, with Bill and Donna involved, and I am very pleased about that. I have always enjoyed dealing with the customers and helping them, and I will continue to do that. Many of our customers have become friends over the years. I hope I have made a difference in people's lives. It's great when a customer comes in, feeling better, and says 'It worked.' To know that you've done something honestly and are known and respected for that is important."
The Princeton Pharmacy is open Monday through Friday 9 to 7; Saturday 9 to 5; Sunday 11 to 2 (closed Sunday in the summer). (609) 924-4545.
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