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Pro-life Pharmacy Closes – Business Reflections

By Peter Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Apr 17, 2010

DMC Pharmacy, part of Northern Virginia’s Divine Mercy Care’s (DMC) health care organization, closed last month after nearly two years in business. The pharmacy was the second major project of the organization, which also operates the successful Tepeyac Family Center (OB-GYN).

I learned of the closing through two sources: first, an email from DMC announcing the end of the program; second, a snarky, one-sided post-mortem written by Petula Dvorak, Metro columnist for the Washington Post.

An excerpt from the Post article: “Shoppers in Northern Virginia apparently weren't clamoring for a place to pick up cough medicine that also didn't sell porn, cigs and mascara. Selections of these wicked products (especially mascara -- have you seen the array recently? Glittery! Lengthening! Stiletto lashes! Such naughtiness!) are available in just about every supermarket and big-box store across the country.”

Despite the biased (and obnoxious) tone of the Post article, it somehow managed to raise a point worth considering. The pharmacy did a good job of defining what it would not do (sell contraceptives, abortifacients, pornography, etc.)—but did the pharmacy do a good job of defining how it would excel? What things did the pharmacy plan to do better than anyone else, from a business perspective?

As a supporter of DMC, I had trouble understanding how the pharmacy was going to make it. For one thing, I didn’t think that pro-life Catholics would drive a considerable distance to fill their prescriptions at a pro-life pharmacy—even if polls had shown that the constituency was willing to do this, I would have been skeptical. And as it turns out, people didn’t. The Post article quotes DMC leader Dr. John Bruchalski as stating, “The biggest negative was that convenience factor.”

Pro-life Catholics in the Northern Virginia area are “sacrificers”. They pray, make contributions, and volunteer time to support creating a culture of life. This includes driving long distances to attend Catholic schools, visit Catholic doctors, attend Mass, seek sound spiritual direction, etc. This faith-based sacrifice is how the aforementioned OB-GYN office remains in business. So, it isn’t the case that Catholics aren’t willing to go out of their way for things of moral priority. The pharmacy, however, was not able to make it high enough on their scale of priorities to keep it in business.

The pharmacy tried to bolster revenue through assembling a semi-online pharmacy to fill orders from distant patrons in Virginia and other states. However, this effort was not successful enough to keep the business operational.

Perhaps it isn’t possible for a pro-life pharmacy to thrive in Northern Virginia. However, if such a venture is launched again, I hope that it will be successful. It is worth attempting things for God, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Moreover, lessons learned from this experience will likely strengthen other DMC programs in the future. It is important to note that not every business venture is successful. DMC was determined that lack of success for the pharmacy would not negatively affect its other successful operations, and I believe such has proven to be the case. If so, the organization obeyed one of the most critical rules of entrepreneurship—define your exit strategy. In other words: before you start, define the point where “enough is enough”, and make sure that you leave yourself a cushion with which to change directions or refocus on your core business.

DMC is a wonderful organization, running worthy programs that deserve global Catholic recognition. The fact that the pharmacy closed, particularly in a difficult economy, does not alter that fact. And it is my sense that DMC supporters, who perhaps didn’t appreciate the pharmacy project as much as other DMC endeavors, will focus more clearly and enthusiastically on DMC’s other work—a definite plus.

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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: RobandKristin - Apr. 19, 2010 9:37 AM ET USA

    I also read the annoying post article and had the same opinion. It does seem that it would have been worth while to have the pharmacy in the same plaza as Tepeyac.

  • Posted by: jbryant_132832 - Apr. 17, 2010 4:31 PM ET USA

    I was very disappointed to see the pharmacy close. I had told everyone I know i Catholic circles about it. Personally I'd like to see the Bishops have their diocese get behind efforts like this and the Tepeyac Clinic, I think it's important for the Church to show leadership like this as opposed to supporting efforts like the CCHD.

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