Community Pharmacists Rally to Advocate for Patients Rights

By John Kaliabakos

Hundreds of community pharmacists held rallies across New York State on October 23 to stand with Governor Cuomo and support legislation containing the nation’s toughest protections from prescription drug middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). Village Apothecary was proud to stand alongside other independent pharmacies in the quest for fairness in pharmacy care that could impact millions of patients.

At a rally on the steps of City Hall in New York City, hundreds of independent pharmacists gathered alongside supporters and elected officials to thank Governor Cuomo and members of the New York State Senate and Assembly for their leadership in the fight against PBMs.

Pharmacists demonstrated support for Senate Bill 6531 and Assembly Bill 2836, the legislation passed in June by the New York State Legislature that would require licensure and regulation of PBMs and provide increased protections for patients, taxpayers, and pharmacies.

“The legislation would be a major step forward in the fight against PBMs. We need to ensure that pharmacists, patients, and taxpayers alike are being guarded against their abusive and deceptive practices. It is time to shine the light brightly on these greedy corporate middlemen,” said Parthiv Shah, Chairman of the New York City Pharmacists Society.

PHARMACISTS DEMONSTRATE SUPPORT FOR SENATE BILL 6531 AND ASSEMBLY BILL 2836. Senator Diane Savino (front row, far left), next to Roger Paganelli, a leader of the FixRx campaign. Village Apothecary representatives were present as well (first row, far right). Photo courtesy of Tom Corsillo.

“We applaud the Governor for his leadership over the last few years and for taking the steps to make real change in the way that PBMs are able to operate,” said Steve Moore, President of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York. “We look forward to the increased PBM oversight and transparency that this legislation makes possible.”

The demonstrations were organized by FixRx, a joint effort by the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York (PSSNY) and the New York City Pharmacists Society (NYCPS) to improve the quality of healthcare provided by pharmacists, protect patient choice, save taxpayers money and restore fairness to the distribution of prescription drugs.

The activities today came on the heels of two successful rallies held in Albany in March and May, which led to several victories for neighborhood pharmacists, their patients and taxpayers. Among these were the elimination of “spread pricing” in Medicaid managed care, the tool that PBMs used to purloin $300 million from New Yorkers in 2018, and the bills under discussion today.

According to pharmacy organization studies, pharmacies actually lose money when filling prescriptions under Medicare Managed Care plans almost 50% of the time. Consequently, 70% of pharmacies in New York have been forced to lay off employees or reduce store hours in 2019. In 2020 it is expected that 90% of pharmacies may be forced into these measures if there is no change in the reimbursement system.

Village Apothecary and other independent pharmacies are fighting hard behind the scenes every day to ensure that patients receive the highest quality care and we ask for the community’s support in the ongoing battle against the questionable practices of these PBMs and insurance companies.

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