Pharmacies in 2 Sask. towns to be sold due to competition concerns

·3 min read
Neighbourly Pharmacy Inc. announced its $435-million acquisition of Rubicon Pharmacies, which owned a network of retail pharmacies, in March 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Neighbourly Pharmacy Inc. announced its $435-million acquisition of Rubicon Pharmacies, which owned a network of retail pharmacies, in March 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Pharmacies in two small Saskatchewan towns are being put up for sale to resolve competition concerns.

Neighbourly Pharmacy Inc. will soon own both pharmacies in the towns of Kamsack and Shaunavon, once its recent acquisition of Rubicon Pharmacies is finalized.

Last week, Canada's Competition Bureau announced Neighbourly had agreed to sell one of the two pharmacies in each town to address issues regarding monopoly control.

"The bureau concluded that the proposed transaction would likely substantially lessen competition in the supply of pharmacy products and services," the bureau stated in a news release on June 7.

According to the bureau, Neighbourly owns and operates a network of 171 retail pharmacies across Canada, including 111 based in Western Canada. Six of those are in Saskatchewan, one in Manitoba, 50 in Alberta and 54 in British Columbia.

Meanwhile, Rubicon owns and operates a network of 100 retail pharmacies concentrated in Western Canada: 62 in Saskatchewan, 18 in Manitoba, 14 in Alberta and six in British Columbia.

Next steps uncertain

Shaunavon mayor Kyle Bennett said Monday he was unaware of the resolution until CBC News contacted him for comment.

"These two pharmacies do serve a fairly large area in the southwest here, with Eastend, Frontier and Climax," Bennett said, adding he wouldn't want to see just one pharmacy in town.

"It's nice having two because then your level of service always generally goes up when you've got a little bit of competition. So it is good to see that they are willing to sell one of the stores."

CBC News reached out to the Competition Bureau for clarity on what happens if a pharmacy is not sold.

It said in a statement that it must approve any buyer after first ensuring it has the capability to compete in that market. If it can't find one, a trustee will be appointed to find a buyer, and the store's assets must be maintained and kept competitive until a buyer is found.

That's the biggest thing, would anyone be willing to move to Shaunavon to purchase the pharmacy and operate in a small town? - Kyle Bennett, Mayor of Shaunavon

According to 2021 Census data Shaunavon, located 110 kilometres southwest of Swift Current, has a population of 1,784 people.

Bennett said there are challenges when it comes to enticing people from outside the community to open shop.

"That's the biggest thing, would anyone be willing to move to Shaunavon to purchase the pharmacy and operate in a small town?" he said.

"That being said, hopefully [the company] is willing and open to offers from local pharmacists to carry it on."

The town of Kamsack in southeast Saskatchewan has a similar-sized population of 1,779.

Kamsack mayor Nancy Brunt told CBC the town has always had two pharmacies, and "look forward to continuing this in the future."

"I believe there is someone out there who would be happy to take over one of our pharmacies here," Brunt said in an email Monday.

It's not clear which of the two pharmacies in each community will be sold.

Neighbourly currently owns Rx Drug Store I.D.A in Kamsack and a Rexall Pharmacy in Shaunavon.

Rubicon Pharmacies owns Kamsack Family Pharmacy in the namesake town, and Jae's Phamarcy in Shaunavon.

The latter was bought from Jaelee Guenther in 2015, three years after she opened the business in her hometown.

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