The Rite Aid on Fourth Street recently closed, forcing students to travel a greater distance to pick up prescriptions. The closest Rite Aid location is now on the North Side. (Zijun Xia/ B&W Staff)

Rite Aid closure impacts pharmacy access


The Rite Aid at 104 E. Third St. in South Bethlehem closed on Jan. 10, leaving Southside residents and Lehigh students with only one major pharmacy nearby, the CVS at 305 W. Fourth St.

The Rite Aid is moving its location to 1718 Stefko Boulevard in North Bethlehem, according to the sign posted outside the closed location.

This is not the only Rite Aid that has recently closed. 

Since August 2023, five Rite Aid locations have closed in the Lehigh Valley area. The Wall Street Journal said these recent closings may be attributed to Rite Aid’s national negotiation with creditors regarding a bankruptcy plan. 

As of Oct. 16, they have filed for bankruptcy and released a plan to shut down 400 to 500 franchised stores across the country.

Since Rite Aid’s closure, Lehigh students have noticed an increase in the wait times at CVS. Samia Rahman, ‘26, is a CVS front store associate. 

“I can see the customers frustrated with everything going on because it’s very crazy back there,” Rahman said. 

Since Rite Aid closed, Rahman said CVS has had to hire more employees to keep up with the volume of customers.

Abby Hsu, ‘27, said she had to transfer her prescription to a different pharmacy. 

“I did have one prescription at Rite Aid, and I was devastated when it closed,” Hsu said. “I transferred it to a different Rite Aid location in Quakertown, but now I have to drive 30 minutes to pick up my prescription.” 

Both Rahman and Hsu said they noticed a price difference between CVS and Rite Aid, which could alienate some Southside residents.

“CVS is more expensive than Rite Aid, I do know that,” Rahman said. “I do feel bad for those who cannot always afford CVS now that Rite Aid is not an option and closed down.” 

CVS and Rite Aid also don’t necessarily accept the same insurance plans. While both companies claim to accept most insurance, research by the American Medical Association shows that the CVS-Aetna merger will hurt competition and can increase Medicare Part D prescription plans. 

This means that CVS and Aetna, companies that used to compete for certain customers, will now be joining forces. 

The 2021 census shows that 18.4% of Southside residents were insured by Medicare. This merger could impact these residents as it will leave little room for price differences between providers.

Rite Aid’s closure will not only impact prescription holders. 

Nicolas Galindo, ‘27, said he won’t be able to purchase daily necessities as often because CVS is less convenient for him. 

He said he used to go to Rite Aid approximately every week, but feels less inclined to go to CVS at that same rate. 

“Now to get something I have to walk further which is inconvenient and I’ll definitely go less to get things at CVS,” Galindo said. 

Farrington Square is approximately 0.3 miles from both the CVS and Rite Aid; however, the former requires crossing a major road: Broadway. 

Aside from CVS, there are two other smaller pharmacies located on the Southside, Bethlehem Pharmacy at 817 E. Fourth St., and the Family Prescription Center, at 439 Wyandotte St.

That said, Rite Aid’s closure will have a variety of impacts on both students and Southside residents. Currently, no plan has been released to the public for another pharmacy or convenience store to replace it.  

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