A letter from the owner.
I want to take this opportunity to say Thank You to all of the customers that Spartan Pharmacy is privileged enough to serve. I thought that those folks interested enough to read this newsletter might be interested in learning about the challenges that an Independent Pharmacy faces each and every day, and why taking the time to write this message is a pleasure for me.
People would think that all of the big pharmacy chains are driving Independent pharmacy owners out of business, but that’s not the case. In all honesty, I don’t even think of them as our competitors. Sure, they share the same market place with us, but once someone learns about Spartan Pharmacy’s (and Independent Pharmacy in general) level of care and service, people rarely go back to a chain.
The biggest competitor to ALL retail pharmacy is the Pharmacy Benefit Manager, or PBM. You see their names emblazoned on your insurance card: Medco, ExpressScripts, CVS Caremark are some of the nation’s largest PBM’s. These companies are billing companies for insurance plans. All prescription claims that go through insurances get processed through a PBM. There are some up sides, but the negatives far outweigh the positives.
An example of how this works is as follows: Mrs. Smith has a Highmark insurance plan. That plan’s Rx benefits are all processed through Medco. It does not matter what pharmacy you go to, the pills in that prescription are all billed to the same place. The PBM, Medco in this case, then sets the reimbursement price and the copay. Non of this is controlled by the pharmacy. In effect, it levels the playing field, and allows people to go to any pharmacy that they want without having to worry about prices. Customers can pick and choose which pharmacy they want to go to based off of service and convenience… At least that’s how it used to be.
Now, the PBM’s have every prescription claim that has ever been filled for not only Mrs. Smith, but the entire Highmark network as well, and they now own their own pharmacies. It is commonplace now for Spartan Pharmacy customers to get letters and phone calls directly from the PBM’s trying to get our loyal customers to switch over to the PBM’s pharmacy, also known as “mail order”. Often times lower copays are promised, or “specialist hypertension or diabetes pharmacists” are claimed to be the ones filling your prescriptions, but in reality, the Rx is usually processed by a pharmacist or technician who is literally processing thousands of Rx’s a day in an assembly line. The trouble is that with all of this power, things have a tendency to become corrupt.
I have personally seen countless examples of PBM’s mailing medications without the customer requesting it, especially right before an expensive brand name medication goes generic, in an effort to clear out their inventory at the expense of the customer. Both of my own parents have been called by a certain PBM offering them better service and pricing, if they would only leave Spartan Pharmacy. The list that I could type could go on for pages, but that is not my intention.
If you are taking the time to read this article, then you are already our customer, and are interested in our business. Without customers like you, Spartan Pharmacy, and Independent Pharmacy as a whole could not survive. I want to say “Thank You”, for no matter what you have been told or offered, you have decided to share your business and your trust with our staff. All that I can ask is that you continue to give Spartan Pharmacy the opportunity to earn your business. Sometime we cannot compete with the PBM’s in the lop-sided fight in which they set all the rules. More often than not, we can. Please do not hesitate to just ask “can you help me with my prescription costs”. Our staff comes to work every day with that very intention in their hearts. Your decision to allow us to care for you and your family also enables Spartan Pharmacy to then take care of our staff’s families. Thank you for that gift.
Adam Rice, Pharm D.
Owner, Spartan Pharmacy