Discover Lafayette welcomes Joel Fruge, owner of Acadiana Prescription Shop and expert on all things relating to independent pharmacies.
Acadiana Prescription Shop has been in continuous operation since 1969 and under Fruge’s wing since 2002, where they have five pharmacists on staff. “I feel privileged to be able to work in the Oil Center, we have a great clientele,” Fruge said.
Fruge grew up with his five siblings in Eunice, three of whom now also live in Lafayette. While Fruge was attending college at LSU-Eunice, his first gig was a delivery job for a pharmaceutical company, which sparked his interest in the profession immediately. He later went to Northeastern Louisiana University’s Pharmaceutical School, and thereafter made several important connections at his first job working at the University Medical Center (now Ochsner University Hospitals & Clinics).
Fruge then went to work for K&B Drug Stores in Lake Charles, which was later acquired by Rite Aid. After moving to a small town in Texas to work for a management company, Fruge knew he wanted to come back to South Louisiana.
The first independent pharmacy that he worked for was Carmichael’s in Crowley. “Ted Carmichael was very successful, he taught me so much,” Fruge said. He quickly learned the value of customer relationships through Ted and by witnessing his work ethic firsthand.
After his time at Carmichael’s, Fruge was called to work for Acadiana Prescription Shop by its late owner, Philip Comeaux. Unfortunately, Comeaux died shortly after Fruge joined the shop in 2002. “We had so much in common, he really afforded me an opportunity to be here in the Oil Center as an independent pharmacist. We don’t plan on going anywhere,” Fruge said. He took over Acadiana Prescription Shop and kept many of its classic details, such as the “Toot & Scoot” drive-up service while also updating operations by replacing the DOS software and purchasing a fax machine. Over the years he has upgraded software and hardware to be able to consistently offer his clientele the ability to check out in two to three minutes, even when they have up to ten prescriptions filled.
Acadiana Prescription Shop is a stand-alone independent pharmacy, which means that it isn’t connected to any chain prescription store. “It took me five years to become the owner, but it went by quickly. I was so happy that the customers gave me a chance and stayed.” Fruge mentioned how neat and well-stocked his store is, which will always be of utmost importance to him as he follows in the revered footsteps of Philip Comeaux.
When discussing how outside factors impact his pharmacy business, Fruge said, “One of the biggest challenges is to be able to afford what the insurance companies decide to pay us back.” Fruge mentioned the impact in 2006 that the implementation of Medicare Part D (which covers the cost of seniors’ medicines), had on the pharmacy industry: “It brought people back to buying their medicine from the pharmacy but at a discounted rate.” Part D also ushered in the era of Pharmacy Benefit Managers who have undercut payment of drug manufacture rebates to customers and the government, and have been blamed for the shocking rise in drug prices over the past 15 years.
When discussing pharmacy benefit managers, Fruge said that their original goal was to save the government and insurance companies money. After much legislation, their practices still aren’t extremely transparent. “Last summer, many of us independent pharmacists went to the Capital in our white coats to hear the pharmacy benefit managers lobby,” Fruge said. He also mentioned that large pharmacies like CVS are trying to squash smaller independent pharmacies to take over their book of business.
Fruge taught us about GoodRx, which is a card that surveys the price of medicines to help people find discounts. “Though we don’t mind doing it, the problem with the card is that GoodRx charges the pharmacy $8.00 per use,” Fruge said.
In regard to Covid, Fruge mentioned that the mask mandate could have been beneficial in his shop even before the pandemic, “We should have thought of that a long time ago because people were coming in with the flu and they were coughing on my cashiers who were then sick the next week.” Though Acadiana Prescription Shop does not administer the COVID vaccine, Fruge is a huge proponent of its benefits, especially because he lost someone to the disease. “The vaccine is there for a reason, though it does have some side effects…it is proven in the numbers to be effective.”
With its well-stocked shelves and convenient location in the Oil Center, Acadiana Prescription Shop always has a crowd of folks streaming in and out. “My staff enjoys what they do, they love the people that come in,” Fruge said. Along with its “Toot and Scoot” service, where patrons can toot their horn and be served, the shop also delivers to clientele who live within five miles from its location.
“Pharmacists are the only medical professionals that you can walk in to see. You don’t need an appointment to ask for advice. We do a lot for the public. I enjoy that facet of what we do.”
Acadiana Prescription Shop offers a wide range of medications and over-the-counter remedies. They make compound medications for women with hormonal issues, medical lollipops for children with pain from tonsillectomies, and they offer Boudreaux’s Butt Paste for a variety of needs experienced by babies with diaper rash, runners, and others with minor skin irritations (which was marketed and patented by pharmacist George Boudreaux drawing upon the “Talbot Method” formula all pharmacy students learn while in school).
Fruge loves his Oil Center location and his clientele. “You get people that come in and they say ‘thank you,’ and I just enjoy being in the front and being with people,” Fruge said. You can’t walk in Acadiana Prescription Shop without having a pleasant encounter with staff and other patrons.
For more information on Acadiana Prescription Shop located at 454 Heymann Blvd. in Lafayette’s Oil Center, please visit https://www.acadianarx.com/ or call (337)233-4017.