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Family continues tradition of family care at Western Drug Pharmacy


January 30, 2020

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

Dominique Preputin helps a customer Wednesday at Western Drug Pharmacy in Havre.

Western Drug Pharmacy has been under the ownership of Dominique Preputin for the past 11 years, and since she took ownership in 2009, she said, she has worked to make Western Drug a place special for Havre and have a role in the community.

"We try to have it so that when you walk through the door we know your name, we're able to ask you how that grandbaby is or how your aunt is who was in the hospital," Preputin said. "We try to make it more friendly and family oriented and that the patient is always the focus for us."

Western Drug was originally owned by Don Vaupel, and it was located on Second Street in the former Buttrey Grocery store, next to what is now the Atrium Mall, when the store closed in 1998.

Preputin said, Kelcey Diemert, who owns Chinook Pharmacy, later reopened the store under the same name and location in 2003. The store was in the Atrium Mall until 2005, when it moved to its current location on Fifth Avenue.

Preputin, who is from Havre, said that after she graduated from Havre High School in 1994, she didn't really know what she wanted to do for a career. She said she attended Carroll College studying pre-med, but found that was not the career she wanted. She later moved back to Havre to attend Montana State University-Northern, where she studied chemistry. 

She said that she still had no idea what she wanted to do until her older sister, Laura Merchant, suggested a career in pharmaceuticals. Preputin said her sister had a friend who was a pharmacist in Great Falls and lined up and opportunity for Preputin to spend a week with Julie Evans, a pharmacist at Plaza Pharmacy.

Preputin said that was what when she fell in love with the career.

She said she changed her degree and began working toward her doctorate in pharmaceuticals. She added that she later earned that degree from Montana State University in 2001.

After coming out of college with a doctorate in pharmaceuticals, every graduate is a pharmacist and usually finds a job in a management position, Preputin said. She said that right after college she got a job working for Northern Montana Hospital before getting a job with Diemert in 2003 when he reopened Western Drug.

Diemert owned both Western Drug and Chinook Pharmacy and would spend most of his time in Chinook, she added. When she started at Western Drug she was hired as the manager and the pharmacist-in charge.

In 2009, Diemert expressed his desire to sell Western Drug and Preputin was faced with the opportunity to purchase the pharmacy, she said. 

"Life gives you crossroads and you have to make a decision," Preputin said.

Diemert was going to sell Western Drug regardless if she was going to buy it, and if she didn't buy it she was unsure the new owner would keep her hired on with the business, Preputin said. She added that she and her husband, Shawn, decided that they were going to purchase the pharmacy.

Shortly after she took ownership of Western Drug she and her husband also had to make a decision whether or not to purchase the building. After the previous owner of the building died, his family came to Preputin and offered to sell her the building. She said that, at the time. Western Drug did not have contract with the building owner and was renting the space month-by-month. If a new owner came in, Western Drug would possibly have to find a new location. So, after talking with her husband, they decided to purchase the building.

She said that the hardest transition for her was going from an employee to an owner. She said that she understood management and pharmaceuticals, but the intricacies of running a business and human resources was a challenge at first. She has made a lot of mistakes over the years and has learned and grown a lot in the past 10 years, she added.

Preputin said she is definitely not perfect and she is learning every day.

"I kind of take it as every day is a learning experience," she said. "I always feel like I learn something from our patients, learn something from my employees."

She added that, as a business owner, people always have to educate themselves and be open to learning new things. Something that has always been important to her is being good to her employees and letting them know and feel like Western Drug is a family-oriented business.

Western Drug being a family-oriented business is something very important to her, she said. As a mother herself, she understands family. Preputin said that she has two sons, Stephen, 15, and Koby, 13, and although they are not very involved with the business the dynamic is there. Stephen regularly comes to join her for lunch during the week and her youngest son, Koby, is an avid Montana Actors' Theatre actor, recently playing a role in "Jack and the Beanstalk," which MAT performed in December.

Both of her sons also regularly help Preputin with the landscaping for the building, she said.

She added that her mother is also involved with the business. Her mother had previously worked at Northern Montana Hospital and the clinic as a microbiologist, about the same time that Preputin graduated from college. Preputin said that her mother helped her with the business after she first took ownership of Western Drug and is still currently involved with the business handling the accounts.

Preputin said that the biggest thing she has noticed in pharmaceuticals is a large increase of prices for medication. She said an inhaler could cost around $75 when she first started in 2001, now the same inhaler could cost someone $475.

If a person needs a prescription that day and their insurance will not cover the cost it would have to come out of people's pockets, she said. 

People mostly have insurance, but that creates a problem with insurance companies dictating what medication people will have access too and tend to drive up costs for patients.

"They base everything on money ... and that bothers me," Preputin said.

Everyone is different and the effects of medication is different for everyone, she said. She added that, legally, if a customer cannot afford one of the name brand medications and there is a cheaper generic form of the medication which will equally help a patient every pharmacist has to give that option to customers if requested. She said it is important for people to keep that in mind when getting their medication. 

Preputin said that technology has also changed the pharmaceutical market, with Western Drug now texting people about their prescriptions and having an application, RefillRX, available for people to submit refills and questions for pharmacists. But technology is not always great when it comes to educating consumers. She added that the internet has a lot of misinformation and incorrect information about medications and people should always consult with their pharmacist as well as their doctor before taking a new medication. 

That is one service she takes very seriously, Preputin said. When anyone is prescribed a new medication or needs help figuring out how to properly use their medication she and her employees are more than willing to sit down with people and go over the information.

She added that something Western Drug has started doing in the past 10 years is also offering compounding, which are prescription ointments and creams which are made specifically for individuals and their needs. She said that some of her pharmacists have had a passion for compounding and promoted Western Drug utilizing the service. Western Drug is the only pharmacy on the Hi-Line which offers this and the closest place outside of Havre people can get this service is in Great Falls. 

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

Insurance can make it difficult for people to get the care and information they need, and everyone in the pharmaceutical market is dealing with the same problem. But Western Drug's mission is to make sure people can afford their prescriptions and have all the information they may need about the medications they need.

"You have to be open to the community and make yourself available to them," she said.

She added that is one of the reasons she and Western Drug try their best to get out into the community, supporting groups such as the Havre Youth Hockey Association, of which she is the president, Hill County 4-H and MAT. 

Preputin gave thanks to her staff and the community, saying Western Drug isn't going anywhere and she hopes to be able to serve the community for many years to come.

"We are here for you and we consider ourselves a part of your family," she said.


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