Jim and Dawn Gaudino pride themselves in the personal, round-the-clock, neighborly service they provide their customers at Cook's Pharmacy, on Wyoming Avenue.
Like other independent pharmacy owners, the Gaudinos realize that going the extra mile for their patrons is what differentiates them from the drug store chains that are becoming more visible throughout Pennsylvania and the United States.
They also realize that they are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to competitive pricing of prescription medicine.
Large drugstore chains can offer lower prices to their consumers because they can negotiate better deals with pharmaceutical companies for bulk quantities of medication, Jim Gaudino said. Independent pharmacies like Cook's have a more difficult time when it comes to bargaining, he said.
HR1946, the Preserving Our Hometown Independent Pharmacies Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, PA-10, would change that by exempting independent drugstores from antitrust laws that prohibit them from banding together to buy medication.
"It's not a level playing field," Marino said on Monday afternoon as he announced the introduction of HR 1946. "This bill sets out to level that playing field, that's all.
"It would not cost the federal government or anyone else a penny. As a matter of fact, it would actually lower the prices for independent pharmacies like Cook's and they, in turn, would pass it on to the consumer."
HR 1946 was introduced by Marino on May 23; it's the second bill he has introduced since being sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives in January. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee on which Marino sits.
HR1946 would amend antitrust law to allow independent pharmacies to band together and negotiate prices for prescription medicine. It also would give them more leverage when they negotiate reimbursement rates with insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers.
"Independent pharmacies are the most reliable and accessible pharmacies," Jim Gaudino said. "They fill prescriptions and provide excellent service and also help patients manage disease, like diabetes."
Gaudino noted how the 1,000 community pharmacies in Pennsylvania help spur the economy. "Collectively, we employ thousands of hard-working Pennsylvanians, we pay municipal taxes and we are available 24 hours a day," Gaudino said. "This would be great legislation for community pharmacies."
"It's pretty simple," Marino said. "This allows independent pharmacies to fairly negotiate prices and to get better deals. Corporations have that advantage now."
Marino said he has experienced the personal service offered by neighborhood pharmacies. The congressman is a two-time cancer survivor and his 16-year-old daughter Chloe has cystic fibrosis.
"My daughter takes a great deal of medication on a daily basis," Marino said. "My pharmacist is always there. He knows us on a first-name basis. There have been situations when we have gone away and either forgotten or ran out of a prescription. We just call our pharmacist and he makes the arrangements and we are taken care of wherever we are."
HR1946 has been endorsed by the Association of Community Pharmacists Congressional Network.
There are more than 23,000 independent community pharmacies in the United States, providing approximately 300,000 jobs. This is a near-50 percent drop from 1980 when there were 40,000 independent pharmacies in the nation, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association.