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Seven WNY community pharmacies urge Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign Pharmacy Rescue Package

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Posted at 6:29 PM, Dec 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-21 18:29:35-05

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — Seven independently owned Western New York pharmacies are urging Governor Kathy Hochul to sign a pharmacy rescue package.

“It’s time for some relief for community pharmacies,” Pharmacist Steve Giroux said. “We’re burning the candles at both ends trying to keep pace with all the demands put on us.”

Independent pharmacies said they’ve had to take on extra tasks such as COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution, with limited staff, while filling prescriptions on time.

The relief package focusses on three main points:

  • Banning mandatory mail orders
  • Reimbursement guidelines
  • Regulating pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs.

“These PBM’s have to be held accountable for their actions,” pharmacist Jamie Latko said.

According to the National Community Pharmacists’ Association, three PBMs control nearly 80% of the market. CVS controls more than 30%. And pharmacist Jamie Latko, owner of Niagara Apothecary said the PBMs create an unsustainable business model.

“We fill a prescription and lose 50 dollars,” Latko said. “That’s the reality of what’s happening”

In a statement the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, that represents PBMs said:

“Independent pharmacies in New York, and nationwide, play an important role in helping patients access their prescription drugs. Accusations that PBMs are forcing store closures are unproductive and not based in fact. There are more independent pharmacies now than there were five and ten years ago. Today, there are 2,645 more independent pharmacies than there were in 2011, which is almost a 13% increase over 10 years. In New York specifically, the number of independent pharmacies in New York increased 25% from 2011 – 2021 while the number of chain pharmacies in New York decreased 14% from 2011 – 2021.

Independent pharmacies, PBMs, and others in the drug supply and payment chain have worked together during the pandemic and should continue to focus on helping patients access affordable prescription drugs and lead healthier lives.

Legislation supported by the independent pharmacy lobby will cost New York patients and health plan sponsors $28 billion in increased prescription drug costs, jeopardize consumer safety and put mail-order pharmacy services in New York at risk.”

But Latko said independent pharmacies are critical in communities and said PBMs will squeeze them out.

“We can pivot on a dime,” Latko said. “We figure out what somebody needs, and we do it.”

Steve Giroux, president of Middleport Family Health said three of his pharmacies are at risk of closing. Giroux said in Middleport, the closest CVS is more than twenty miles away.

“It’s the non-transparent, unregulated pharmacy benefit managers that are just disrupting the whole system,” Giroux said.

“We’re dealing with a lot of stresses that we’ve never dealt with,” Latko said.

And Giroux said he has no way to negotiate a contract with PBMs.

“There’s no way we have any leverage with them,” Giroux said. “As an independent businessman, it’s basically take it or leave it contracts.”