The US is awash with prescription drugs.
Over the past decade, the number of US pharmacies has doubled to more than 1.5 million, according to the most recent count from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Pharmacies are becoming more accessible, and there are more options for consumers looking to fill their prescriptions online.
But it’s also becoming more difficult to find an affordable pharmacy that accepts cash or credit cards.
One solution to this is stokes, a small pharmacy chain based in Portland, Oregon.
It’s one of the few places in the United States to accept debit cards, and since 2014 it’s taken in $1.6 million in cash and debit card transactions, according the company.
But even with the surge in cash, stokes still has a long way to go before it can offer an even better experience for consumers.
It has a very limited number of locations in the country, and the company is struggling to keep up with demand, according Topping, who works for stokes as an assistant pharmacy manager.
“I think people will look at us and say, ‘Oh, this place accepts credit cards,'” she said.
That’s partly because stokes has a limited amount of inventory.
The company has just one pharmacy in Portland and two in Seattle.
When you go to one of its locations, you can’t find anything.
“It’s like if you had a lot of furniture and didn’t have a lot in your home, you’re kind of stuck with it,” Topping said.
It also has to work around the fact that there aren’t any pharmacies near schools, churches, or places of worship, as well as in places where stokes does business.
Stokes does have a pharmacy on the west coast, but it’s not as accessible as it needs to be.
Topping is looking for a pharmacy that has access to both a pharmacy and a drive-through pharmacy, which is where customers order prescriptions from a drive through machine.
Stoke has plans to expand its drive-thru pharmacy in Seattle in 2019.
But until then, stoke has to make do with a limited number a pharmacy can accept at one time.
Stoking is currently accepting payments in cash or debit card at its locations in Portland.
That could change if the company decides to expand to more locations.
For now, stakes only accepts cash and credit card.
To get a card in the future, stokers needs to increase the number to two or three locations.
If that happens, stouts customers will have to purchase a new card every time they want to buy prescription drugs from a store.
And for now, it’s just the basics.
“Stokes is just doing it in the most basic way possible,” Topper said.
“You have to go to a drive thru, pay for your prescription, and then come back and pay for it in cash.”
Stokes doesn’t have an exact timeline for when it will be able to expand.
For Now, It’s About Finding an Affordable Pharmacy Topping has seen a lot lately of people using stokes.
In November, a new pharmacy called Sotheby’s announced it would be opening in Stokes’ old location.
Sothebys website states it will accept cash and Visa cards.
But unlike stokes in Portland or Seattle, Sothe by Sothe is still accepting Visa and MasterCard payments.
For the past year, Sothbys pharmacy has been busy expanding, offering both private and commercial pharmacy care.
“We’ve been expanding our network, we’ve been doing lots of testing,” Topped said.
Sothby’s pharmacy is the only one that accepts credit card payments.
And Sothebs pharmacy will be opening up soon, as soon as 2019, according Sothebers website.
“They’re looking to expand their network in 2017,” Topp said.
If stokes can grow its reach in the short term, it may be able expand to a few more locations, Topping hopes.
But Stokes can’t just focus on growing its number of pharmacies, and it has to take care of its patients first.
“If you look at the way stokes is operated, it really is just about how you manage that, and how you’re able to provide the best service,” Toppa said.
But in order to do that, stotes customers will need to be willing to put in a little extra effort.
“That’s a good reason to pay attention to the patients, because they’re going to come back every day and you want to make sure you’re helping them and you’re giving them the best care you can,” Topps said.
You can learn more about stokes pharmacists here.