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Independent pharmacists await signing of legislative package

Brooklyn pharmacist: Some don’t have enough cash flow to keep inventory up

December 28, 2021 Raanan Geberer
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Independent pharmacists from across the state, such as Ambar Keluskar, owner of the Rossi Pharmacy in Ocean Hill, have been waiting for Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign a package of bills known as the Pharmacy Rescue Package, which is designed to help small drugstores.

The bill would make more transparent the operations of pharmacy benefit managers and subject them to greater regulations. These entities basically work as middlemen between the pharmacies and insurance companies to control how much is billed per prescription and how much money gets reimbursed to the pharmacies themselves.

One problem is, says Keluskar, whose pharmacy is located at 1891 Eastern Parkway, that at times pharmacy benefit managers are owned by large drugstore chains or co-owned with an insurer. 

“What you’re seeing is that whenever people actually open the books, pharmacy benefit managers are sometimes paying their own pharmacies preferential rates. Customers could be steered to the pharmacy that the PBM has a stake in,” says Keluskar. 

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He stressed that he is giving not only his own viewpoint, but that of the Pharmacists’ Society of the State of New York, with a membership of about 2,000 independent pharmacies across the state.  

In one case, he said, “A parent came in for child’s asthma medication, and we had to break the sad news that they will not fill any more [at the store] and they had to switch to the mail order pharmacy that the PBM owns.”

“Some pharmacies don’t have enough cash flow to keep their inventory up. Even big companies struggling,” he said, mentioning the fact that RiteAid recently announced that it plans to close 60 stores. On some drugs, such as blood pressure medication, pharmacists are getting “only pennies,” he commented.

“This is an area of the market that has such obvious potential but an actual conflict of interest, when so much is on the line in terms of patients’ medications,” he said.

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