State Pushing Bill to Help Local Pharmacies Compete

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With the price of prescription drugs skyrocketing, companies are looking for ways to save money. Many corporations, like General Motors and the State of Michigan, require their employees get prescription drugs from a mail-order drug warehouse.

Because local pharmacies are losing millions of dollars in revenue, the state Senate passed a bill that would allow them to also offer this mail-order service. That bill will now go to the state House. Legislators believe this will help locally-owned pharmacies compete with bigger companies.

Greg Baran of the Michigan Pharmacists Association says that bill does nothing for community pharmacies. He says because large companies have a contract for their employees to use a certain Pharmacy Benefit Manager, or PBM, which is a large prescription drug warehouse, this bill will not open the door for them.

He says the PBMs need to allow local pharmacies to be apart of the mail-order or dispensing of drugs. He also says these large companies are the ones that do not allow local pharmacies to dispense 90-day supplies for one co-payment; they can only dispense a one-month supply while the mail-order pharmacies can give a 90-day supply for the same money.

Baran says a lot more needs to be done in order to level the playing field. He says, if the larger problem is not solved, this could soon be the end of the community pharmacy.

State Senator Bernero says local pharmacies may need to be creative in finding a way to compete with the large drug companies, but he also says if they can show that the competing level is still not even, he is willing to take another look at the issue.

He says, for him it's important people be able to visit their local pharmacists and continue that relationship, but it's more important that the money used for prescription drugs stay in Michigan. Right now, all the revenue from mail-order drugs goes outside the state.