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No profits for prescriptions: Independent pharmacies raise concerns

The technicians at Chris’s Pharmacy in Columbus hardly ever stop, from opening until closing.

There’s plenty of business. In fact, Chris’s Pharmacy in Columbus filled 2,000 more prescriptions last month than it did in April 2023.

However, the store lost $30,000.

“The reimbursements that we have seen have impacted the bottom line by about 5-7%, which is a lot of money loss over time,” said Chris Bonner, Owner of Chris’ Pharmacy

Pharmacists said the issue is how PBMs work. Those are considered the middlemen between insurance companies, pharmacies, and drug manufacturers.

Robert’s Apothecary owner, Robert White, believes the insurance companies want more patients to use their mail-order business and stay away from independent pharmacies.

“What is happening is insurance companies are now paying less than our cost of the drug to dispense. Some of the expensive drugs for diabetes, they may pay us $35 to $85 less than the actual cost of the drug,” said White

White also said PBMs will change how much they reimburse certain drugs in the same year.

“The patient has been with us for 20 to 25 or 30 to 35 years. They are kind of like family, so we take it. They have their $10 co-pay, and towards the end of the year, we are seeing those PBM’S claw back,” said White.

Now, independent stores are having to send some patients to big box retailers for their prescriptions. That’s because they are losing large amounts of money.

However, pharmacists feel stuck and just take the loss when it is less significant.

“If it is a patient that I have known for a long time, we just take care of them and eat the loss, I do it every day,” said Bonner.

Lower profits also mean you have to run the store differently.

“That affects if you are going to hire someone else, and it affects if you can give an employee a raise or not. So when staff leaves, I am not going to be able to replace it,” said Bonner.

Bonner told WCBI that a piece of legislation in Mississippi that would regulate how PBMs operated in the state died this legislative session.

He believes it would have helped independent pharmacies.

Reporter: Khamari Haymer

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