Catholic pharmacy shutters in Virginia

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DMC Pharmacy, a pro-life Catholic pharmacy that opened with much fanfare in Chantilly, Va., in October 2008, closed last month because of lack of funds.

“We could not make it work financially,” said Robert Laird, executive director for the pharmacy, whose letters stood for Divine Mercy Care. “We could never get that big push to make it viable and finally the board of directors said enough was enough.”

By the time the store closed March 4, it was losing in the tens of thousands of dollars per month. When it opened 18 months ago at a cost of $350,000 just as the national economy was in a free fall, the 1,500-square-foot store on Metrotech Drive did not stock birth control pills, condoms, cigarettes or pornographic magazines.

It did have booklets on natural family planning below a picture of St. John Leonardi, the patron saint of pharmacists.

It was one of seven pharmacies in the country that refused to dispense contraceptives for moral reasons, on the grounds they caused abortions, lead to promiscuity or endangered a woman’s health.

Situated next to a Catholic bookstore, the founders hoped to attract clientele from St. Timothy and St. Veronica, two nearby Catholic parishes totaling 20,000 members. Within five miles were four other booming churches with 30,000 Catholics. And it was situated in the fast-growing Diocese of Arlington with 428,417 adherents.

But regular customers never materialized in great numbers.

“You would have thought we could have made it happen,” Mr. Laird admitted. “We were a niche. We were set up to cater to those who wanted that type of personal service. Once people came in, it was great. The pharmacist did so much more than dispense drugs.”

But most customers only needed occasional medications and DMC never connected, he said, with patients needing the kind of maintenance medications that are the bread and butter for most pharmacies.

Plus, DMC never got into the heavy retail items, such as cosmetics, toys and fast food, that help keep similar pharmacies afloat. It did develop a mail-order business that, by the time the pharmacy closed, comprised almost 50 percent of the practice.

Robert Semler, the pharmacist who with his wife, Pam, kept the store going, is taking a much-needed break, Mr. Laird said, adding DMC still has “some debt” left over.

“It was hard,” he said of the closing. “It was like a funeral.”

About the Author
Julia Duin

Julia Duin

Julia Duin is the Times’ religion editor. She has a master’s degree in religion from Trinity School for Ministry (an Episcopal seminary) and has covered the beat for three decades. Before coming to The Washington Times, she worked for five newspapers, including a stint as a religion writer for the Houston Chronicle and a year as city editor at the ...

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