Small Pharmacies struggle to get rapid tests as prices and demand rise

DELMARVA- As the Omicron variant surge continues, small pharmacies are struggling to keep rapid tests in stock, as a priority for manufacturers shifts to large-scale orders from government entities and big box stores.

“We are in a situation you know where we are getting a very small supply of these covid home test kits and we are inundated with phone calls so it a struggle,” said the Pharmacist and Owner of Seaford Pharmacy Waheed Aziz. He tells he can no longer get his orders from one supplier, as he now has to pick through what’s left after larger orders are already placed, mixing and matching suppliers to keep them in stock.

“The government being a bigger buyer they bought most of these kits from the suppliers directly and that leads to a vacuum and the supplier would rather sell those kits to one supplier than a thousand different smaller places in smaller increments,” he said.

Aziz says as one of those smaller places when he can’t buy in bulk, he has to turn to more niche suppliers for smaller orders that lead to higher prices for customers.

“We buy it a certain price which is way higher than big chains can buy from and that makes our price point different,” he said.

And when products are available, they might not be the ones consumers want. Jeff Sheer of Apple Drugs tells us, his pharmacy was able to purchase 25 pack of rapid tests that retails for over 400 dollars. He says there is no way to sell those individually, and so those tests would only make sense for a large-scale business.

He says he’s noticed the price per test is increasing, too, and as his business also transitions to smaller suppliers he’s being mindful of passing costs off to customers, and refusing products where the price hike is too much for his business.

“If you were to come in here two weeks ago, we would have been able to sell you [A brand] for 24.97 for two tests, which is 12.50 apiece, now one that brand is going to cost between 18 and 19 dollars,” he said adding “I’m getting emails from companies but the prices are off, one company wanted to charge 49 dollars for a single test.”

Both say, they are avoiding prices like that for now but as demand rises, more expensive products might be the only way to keep products on shelves.

“I’m closer to getting those products that I would like to admit but we are careful to avoid that image of price gauging,” Sheer said.

Both say, even when they do get lucky and get stable supply tests, it seems they can only keep up not get ahead of demand.

“We have around 300 kits available as we speak but I’m sure by the end of the day they will all be gone,” Aziz said.



Categories: Business, Delaware, Local News, Maryland