Area Rite Aids sold to Walgreens

Rite Aid in Johnstown that now has a Walgreens Pharmacy will soon be transitioned into a full Walgreens store. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

JOHNSTOWN — Anyone who has been to their local Rite Aid pharmacy or have received a letter in the mail from Rite Aid may have noticed some Rite Aid stores are slowly transitioning into Walgreens.

Walgreens plans to acquire 1,932 Rite Aid store locations across the country worth $4.4 billion, which leaves Rite Aid with 2,600 store locations. Media relations spokesman, Phil Caruso said Walgreens is not buying the Rite Aid brand or products, they are just buying the locations.

Caruso said there will be two phases to making the transition from Rite Aid to Walgreens.

“First we will transfer ownership, which will occur in waves,” Caruso said. “After the 1,932 store purchases are acquired, stores are planned to be converted to the Walgreens brand in phases over time.”

He said they anticipate the 1,932 store purchases will be completed in spring.

Locations in the area that have had ownership transferred include in Johnstown at 147 N. Comrie Avenue, in Northville at 212 N. Main St., and in Amsterdam at 4894 Route 30. The store at 172 N. Main St., Gloversville, was not included.

“When a store transfers ownership, the location becomes a Walgreens-owned Rite Aid store,” Caruso said.

He said the associates at the Rite Aid locations will become Walgreens employees and the locations will have a Walgreens pharmacy.

“For now, the front of the store will continue normal business operations under the Rite Aid brand,” Caruso said. He said over time, the locations will be changed to Walgreens with Walgreens products, but it won’t happen all at once. Right now, the external store signs will remain Rite Aid signs, but there will be a sign on the window of the door to indicate that the store is owned by Walgreens and there will be signs at the pharmacy letting patients know it is a Walgreens pharmacy. Letters of the change and informational pamphlets were also mailed to customers.

The store manager of the Johnstown location, Rick Barnes, said the Rite Aid pharmacy had been switched to the Walgreens pharmacy last week. He said the transition went smoothly.

Barnes said the transition will not affect their customers. He said they will still offer all the same services. These include Wellness+ and Plenti cards. According to the pamphlets provided, customers will be able to use their Wellness+ and Plenti cards with full ability to earn and redeem points until Rite Aid is fully converted into the new system. Once the conversion is complete, customers can enroll in Walgreens Balance Rewards program.

However, the transition to Walgreens can affect customers depending on their health insurance coverage. According to the letter, now that the pharmacy is part of the Walgreens prescription insurance network and accepts most insurance plans, customers copays could change. Customers can contact their pharmacist for more information.

Another way customers may be affected is how prescriptions are filled. While Rite Aid is transitioning to Walgreens, their online and mobile prescription refills will be unavailable. When the store is fully converted, customers will then be able to use the online and mobile prescription refills. Until then customers will need to call or stop in to the pharmacy.

According to the pamphlet, anyone who fills prescriptions at any of the Rite Aid locations will only be able to access their prescriptions at that location and other Rite Aid stores with a Walgreens pharmacy. When the full Rite Aid store has been transitioned to Walgreens, prescriptions will be part of the Walgreens network which will allow customers to pick up their prescriptions at any Walgreens.