Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Drug store set to open, despite lawsuit

Albertsons claims new store violates agreement


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

Proprietors of Ketchum's newest drug store, Valley Apothecary, are moving ahead with plans to open up shop this month, despite a lawsuit filed by Albertsons' parent company, SuperValu.

Workers continued remodeling the space in the Copper Ridge building Monday, as proprietors Paula Shaffer and Cathy Swink gave them final pointers.

"We wanted to provide something to the community that wasn't readily available," Swink said.

The co-owners and pharmacists are billing their new venture as a hybrid pharmacy—a blend of traditional drug store with compounding.

"Compounding" means customizing medications for patients' individual needs by mixing ingredients in a particular strength and dosage.

"The compounding is really what is going to distinguish the apothecary from pharmacies," Shaffer said.

The friends and former co-workers at Albertsons hope to open for business during the fourth week of June. A lawsuit filed June 1 in 5th District Court, however, is seeking to stop those plans.

In the complaint, SuperValu alleges that Swink signed a noncompete agreement, in effect for one year after her last day of employment with SuperValu, which was March 31. In that agreement, the lawsuit states, she is prohibited from engaging in business activities within 15 miles from the Albertsons pharmacy at 911 N. Main St. in Hailey. That location is 11.1 miles from the proposed Valley Apothecary.

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That agreement, SuperValu states in the complaint, is to protect the "legitimate interests" of the company, including confidential information, trade secrets and good will of the pharmacy.

"As a direct and proximate result of the defendants' wrongful conduct, SuperValu will suffer great and irreparable injury, damage and harm, including but not limited to loss of business goodwill ... ." the suit reads.

In the complaint against Shaffer, SuperValu claims she has "aided and abetted Swink to breach her contractual obligations" to the company.

Swink's attorney, Michael Christian, with Boise law firm Marcus, Christian, Hardee & Davies, said much of the new business involves services SuperValu does not offer.

"In our view, the definition of the 'business of the company' in the noncompete agreement does not actually prohibit Ms. Swink from engaging in the practice of pharmacy, but only grocery and general merchandise retailing and related activities, neither of which are the purpose of the new business," he said. "Obviously, this will be an issue for the court to decide."

The suit seeks a court order stopping Shaffer and Swink from soliciting past and future customers of SuperValu and from opening the pharmacy. It also seeks attorney fees and "other equitable relief" as determined by the court.

Shaffer and Swink responded to the allegations in a statement provided by Christian: "(The suit) takes the position that we are in violation of noncompete agreements. We disagree with that position, and our attorneys will vigorously defend against Supervalu's (sic) claims. We will comment further when the case is resolved."

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com

Proprietors tout compounding

Paula Shaffer and Cathy Swink, both pharmacists and members of Professional Compounding Centers of America, said they plan to feature compounding prominently in their new Ketchum business, Valley Apothecary. A compounding pharmacist can change the strength of a medication, alter its form to make it easier for the patient to ingest or add flavor to it to make it more palatable, according to the Professional Compounding Centers of America. Compounding pharmacists also can create different ways for patients to take medicines, such as lozenges, lollipops or transdermal gels. Shaffer and Swink said popular medicines they will offer are hormone replacement, skin care and pediatric, pain and anti-itch medications, as well as veterinary medicine. The pharmacy will have a separate compounding room for mixing medications, as well as a patient consultation room.




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