Standing Up for Small Town Pharmacists

August 2, 2019
Weekly Columns

Growing up in rural Arkansas, I’ve seen how important local pharmacies are to their communities. These pharmacies provide so much more than prescriptions – they often stock everything from soap to socks. Large-scale chain pharmacies just don’t have the same appeal and can’t offer the same level of personal service.

However, many of these family-owned pharmacies are struggling under direct and indirect renumeration (DIR) fees imposed upon them by Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs). What does that mean? DIR fees are retroactive price concessions pharmacies often have to pay to PBMs after they fulfill prescriptions. In layman’s terms, a pharmacy may be told they’ll be paid a certain amount for the prescriptions they fill, but after months of waiting for payment, PBMs may decide not to pay, or even demand the pharmacy pay them. This hinders independently-owned pharmacies’ abilities to balance their checkbooks and plan for the future, potentially putting them out of businesses or up for sale.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to visit Frontier Pharmacy in Bismark. This family-owned business is at the forefront of these PBM issues, as they are directly affected by DIR fees. There’s no reason for these pharmacies – many of which have been passed down between generations – to suffer from obscure and dishonest PBM practices.

The entire Arkansas congressional delegation has been united on eliminating DIR fees, and we will continue fighting for our state’s small-town pharmacies. We know how important these businesses are to rural communities across our districts. If you have questions or would like to learn more about these issues, feel free to contact my office at 202-225-3772.

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