Challenges Facing Independent and Community Pharmacists

Floor Speech

By:  Tom Marino
Date: July 24, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. MARINO. Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, today, independent pharmacists are facing an increasing number of challenges that threaten their very livelihoods. These are the independent mom-and-pop pharmacies that all Americans have come to know and to love. They are the neighborhood staples that you have come to rely on. They are where you can go for basic medical advice, and they are where new parents can have their children's prescriptions filled. On average, independent pharmacies fill over 200 prescriptions every day, provide immunization, durable medical equipment, diabetes training, and other vital services. Unfortunately, these independent pharmacies are more vulnerable than ever and are having to lay off workers at an alarming rate.

As more independent pharmacies are forced to close their doors, I am increasingly concerned about the impact that this will have on American families, especially on those in rural areas like my district in northeast Pennsylvania. Not only does their closure jeopardize the local drug supply, but it also has dangerous consequences for the surrounding areas' medical providers--that's right--dangerous consequences for the surrounding areas' medical providers.

One of the biggest dangers to local independent pharmacies is the pharmacy benefit managers industry, or PBMs. Over the past few years, the PBMs' power has become concentrated in the hands of a few, enabling them to dominate over their competition. Independent pharmacies are at a competitive disadvantage, which prevents them from providing their customers with vital prescriptions at a reasonable cost.

I have heard from a number of pharmacists that PBMs have an incredible market power over independent pharmacists. Even worse, the political power of only a handful of companies has enabled them to grow and to swallow their competition, which is only expected to intensify if ObamaCare is fully implemented.

This is why I, along with my colleague to my right and Judy Chu of California, introduced H.R. 1188, the Preserving Our Hometown Independent Pharmacies Act of 2013. This bipartisan, commonsense legislation provides a limited exemption for independent community pharmacists from antitrust laws. My bill would level the playing field by enabling the mom-and-pop pharmacies to work together in order to negotiate better contract terms from the large drug companies and pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs. The unchecked practice of PBMs has gone on for too long, and it's time we passed H.R. 1188 in order to stop these harmful practices.

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