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Local pharmacists could be next

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By Jason Wallace, Pharm.D.,R.Ph

The recent closing of the Borders bookstore has me wondering what the citizens of Grant County would think if they lost the services of their local trusted pharmacists. The possibility is real. The similarities to what shut down a mega retailer like Borders, and the economic pressures facing retail pharmacy are quite striking. Except for one thing: books are a commodity, drugs purchased at a pharmacy and the services provided by a pharmacist are not!

The large  “insurance” company-owned mail order pharmacies would like you to think drugs are just another commodity to be purchased online. The truth is, they are not insurance companies at all. They are called Pharmacy Benefit Managers or PBMs, and they are not regulated by the insurance commissioner or any other state or federal agency.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that having your medications filled out of state is poor healthcare, what does it do to the local economy? Companies, large and small, that depend on LOCAL commerce for their very survival, seem to have no problem sending millions of their dollars out of state each year for mail order pharmacy services. City and state governments do the same thing, except in those cases, it’s your tax dollars being shipped out of state.

So what can you the consumer do to save money and support the local economy? First be sure you have a relationship with your local pharmacist. Your local pharmacist knows more about you and your medication than some warehouse operation in New Jersey. Second, check with your local pharmacist to see if your mail order prescription can be filled locally. In many cases, a generic can be utilized that will save you money over and above your mail order prescription.  Third, support legislation that bans mandatory mail order and requires PBM transparency. Visit www.fight4rx.org  for more information. If you send that generic off to be filled by mail, your local pharmacist might not be there next year. Today it is Borders, who will it be tomorrow?

(Jason Wallace, Pharm.D.,R.Ph is the owner of Grant County Drugs and Custom Compounding Center in Dry Ridge, Williamstown and Crittenden. He may be reached at jasonw@fuse.net.)