Rural pharmacies in danger of closing due to financial landscape

DUNCANSVILLE – Pennsylvania pharmacists and other experts in the prescription drug industry told lawmakers this week that many rural pharmacies are in danger of going out of business due to flaws in the current regulatory and reimbursement systems.

The testimony came during a workshop discussion with members of the Senate Majority Policy Committee in Duncansville. The discussion, which was requested by Sen. Judy Ward (R-30), was held to explore some of the most serious challenges facing rural pharmacists.

“These facilities are so important to the long-term health of our communities,” Ward said. “I have heard about many of the challenges facing these businesses over the past several years. Learning more about the circumstances affecting these businesses is the first step toward finding solutions to save our local pharmacies.”

“Not only do rural pharmacies face problems related to the slower population growth in their counties, but also from burdensome regulations and bureaucratic red tape,” said Senate Majority Policy Committee Chairman Sen. David G. Argall (R-29). “Pharmacies are a vital part of our communities. Theses are services that communities rely on for necessary medicines necessary for their health and safety.”

Many of the testifiers raised concerns about the number of rural pharmacies that are closing due to the difficult financial landscape facing these businesses. Reimbursement rates from pharmacy benefit managers were identified as one of the main causes of the financial crunch on pharmacies.

“We are seeing an alarming number of rural pharmacies going out of business,” said Value Drug Company President Greg Drew. “These pharmacies have been on the front lines during this pandemic meeting the health care needs of our communities. Meanwhile, these same businesses are being forced to sell products at pennies over the cost to acquire them.”

“In many cases, an independent pharmacy is a one-man show. There is no stop or end to the regulatory demands,” said Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association President Patricia Eppel. “They have to spend too much time fighting with pharmacy benefit managers who are making billions in the prescription drug industry.”

DePietro’s Pharmacy owner and operator Thomas DePietro detailed the impact on consumers if steps are not taken to fix the current system. 

“Without access to independent pharmacies, I can assure you our customers would have restricted access to vital pharmacy services that help them remain adherent to their medication, out of the hospital, and in their home,” DiPietro said. “Our communities are eagerly waiting for our state and federal elected officials to address this broken system.”