As you drive around Houston, it is common to see large pharmacy chain stores on almost every other block. And then there is the small independent pharmacy, competing against those giants and maintaining a loyal customer base.
Sterling Pharmacy, located near Bellaire Boulevard and the Beltway, is going strong by adapting and updating pharmacy services, especially so during this pandemic. It does so by giving attention to personal service and going to the customers with home delivery rather than having their customers come to the pharmacy.
Bryan Phan, co-owner of Sterling Pharmacy since 2012, prides himself on offering labeling and instructions in Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, and English, and serving the community with free delivery and the opportunity to talk to a staffer day or night with concerns about medications.
“We try to go above and beyond, and that is how we compete with the chains,” Phan said. “When they need us, we are there for them. We pay more attention. We genuinely care about our customers.”
He tells the story of a customer who was concerned about the fact sheet for a new medication. Phan spent more than an hour talking to his concerns, and this was late at night.
Raised in Philadelphia, and a graduate of Temple University School of Pharmacy there, Phan had friends from school who loved living in Houston. In 2012, he made the big move to our city and has never regretted it.
“Sterling Pharmacy has been around since 2006, but we have made a specialty of serving the Asian community,” Phan said. “We use a computer program to translate drug side effects, instructions and labeling into any needed language. Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and English are our most often requested languages and we are happy to provide that.”
The free delivery is a same-day or next-day service.
“We have many diabetic customers, elderly customers, customers with chronic illnesses, and they cannot get to a pharmacy to pick up their prescriptions, so we bring them to them,” Phan explained. “This is especially important now during the pandemic. We would not want to put anyone at risk or make them wait in a store with other people.”
The staff also goes the extra mile in finding lower cost alternatives to medications, communicating with doctors, and finding coupons and discounts for drugs. They also find low co-pay generics and other acceptable forms of the same formula of medicine for those without insurance or on a fixed-income budget.
“Many times we find that doctors prescribe medications that are expensive and we go out of our way to find and suggest lower cost alternatives,” Phan said. “We prioritize our communication with doctors and in getting their approval for these in a way most chain pharmacies cannot do and we get this done as quickly as possible.”
The business also offers a wide variety of vaccinations, such as ones for the flu, shingles, tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis, meningitis and pneumonia, telling the clientele that getting shots at the pharmacy may require less time and expense than going to a physician’s office. They also specialize in vaccinations for school requirements and also provide vaccination records for schools and colleges on request. Phan looks forward to the daywhen they can provide the COVID-19 vaccination as well.
Phan and his partner also donate their time by visiting the Vietnamese American Foundation Senior Center to educate the elderly on medicines and how to use them. They take their time to answer questions and meet one-on-one to discuss medicine protocols.
Kim Nix coordinates these Saturday visits and workshops at the Senior Center and is very impressed with Sterling Pharmacy’s willingness to help.
“They have so much patience, I cannot say enough good things about them,” Nix said. “They help so many people on their visits, and they are so polite and so kind. Their attitude so wonderful, always willing to help. Many have old medicines and they do not really understand how to use them, and they meet with people personally to educate them.”
Nix is also impressed how far they will drive to deliver advice or even to visit an infirm patient and help them.
“It is not just the Bellaire, Chinatown area, but they go all over,” Nix explained. “They help so many people financially as well by finding them lower cost medicines. Our seniors really appreciate this great service and think so highly of them.”
6609 W. Sam Houston Parkway South, Suite 98 B
— by Arlene Nisson Lassin