Miller Drug to merge, run 3 more facilities

Pharmacist Bill Miller talks with a reporter on the phone as he counts out pills at his State Street pharmacy in Bangor on Tuesday, March 16, 2010. Miller has joined forces with Brain Donahue of Affiliated Pharmacy Services to form a merger of the two companies.

(Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)
Pharmacist Bill Miller talks with a reporter on the phone as he counts out pills at his State Street pharmacy in Bangor on Tuesday, March 16, 2010. Miller has joined forces with Brain Donahue of Affiliated Pharmacy Services to form a merger of the two companies. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)
Posted March 16, 2010, at 8:04 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Miller Drug, a locally owned State Street fixture for more than a half-century, soon will have stores in three additional locations in the Bangor area.

Pharmacist Bill Miller on Tuesday teamed with officials from Affiliated Healthcare Services, a for-profit arm of Brewer-based Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, to announce a merger between their businesses and a new joint business entity with a familiar name — Miller Drug LLC.

The new Miller Drug will take over operations of the three pharmacies now owned by Affiliated Pharmacy Services, a division of Affiliated Healthcare Systems. The stores are on the campus of Eastern Maine Medical Center, in the Eastern Maine Healthcare Mall on Union Street in Bangor, and at the new Lafayette Family Cancer Center in Brewer.

In addition to his flagship store on State Street, Miller will lend his redoubtable name to the three Affiliated Pharmacy Services stores, which will be named Miller Drug, Riverside; Miller Drug, Westgate; and Miller Drug, Whiting Hill.

Miller, 75, has no immediate plans to retire. He will serve as a consultant for all four stores and pinch-hit as needed to fill prescriptions, he said. He anticipates that no layoffs or other major changes will affect his approximately 100 employees.

Miller and Brian Donahue, senior vice president of Affiliated Healthcare Systems, said the deal is a “50-50 merger” and that no money has changed hands, although the business model may alter in time. Both emphasized the desirability of maintaining the presence of homegrown neighborhood pharmacies at a time when pharmacy chains and big box stores are increasingly prominent.

In contemplating the future of his business, Miller said, he has “considered everything,” including partnering with the chain stores.

“I couldn’t exit this business until I knew the neighborhood community pharmacy is still in existence,” Miller said. “I realized this [merger with Affiliated Pharmacy Services] had to be the answer.”

The Miller family will maintain ownership of the State Street property.

The four-store system will provide more convenient customer service, Miller said, while the State Street location will continue to be open seven days a week.

Miller Drug, in addition to filling prescriptions for legions of loyal customers, also contracts to provide medications to several area nursing homes and other residential facilities. Donahue acknowledged that these contracts helped make the merger more attractive.

But he stressed that, like Miller Drug, Affiliated Pharmacy Services strives to offer personalized services in a neighborhood store setting as an alternative to the pharmacy chain stores.

“We are committed to maintaining the role of the community pharmacy,” he said. “The Millers have done a great job here and we are excited about partnering with them. Either we work together to do this, or the other option is the big box store.”

Miles Theeman, president and CEO of Affiliated Healthcare Systems, said in a statement that both Miller Drug and Affiliated Pharmacy services have “set the bar extremely high for both quality and service.”

“Joining these two great organizations will ensure Miller Drug’s incredible legacy of outstanding family-owned, community-based services to residents of eastern and northern Maine will continue for years to come,” he said.

The official merger won’t take effect for about three months, after applicable licensing and other legalities are complete.

The State Street store was established as a variety store in 1939 by Bill Miller’s mother, Frieda Miller. It started compounding and selling prescription drugs in 1957.

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