What Independent Pharmacy Means to Me (By Dr. Jen VanDeWater)
By Dr. Jennifer VanDeWater, PharmD
Integrative Therapeutics Board of the The Wellness Company
Do you recall the scene from the well-known Christmas movie "It’s A Wonderful Life" where George Bailey is mixing up floats at the pharmacy counter? Inviting, casual, and quaint; that is how I see pharmacy.
As a pharmacist, I have watched the industry become institutionalized, impersonal, and disconnected on so many levels. People in the community are treated as products and no longer valued as individuals.
Thankfully, there are some small, independent pharmacies still in business today, that value authentic care, genuine relationships, and an individualized experience for each patient.
What’s Lost Trying to Compete with Big Pharma
I have never been an independent pharmacy owner, but I have worked for some and conversed with many in the industry. I began noticing a few common concerns.
First, the small independent practices could never compete with the big pharma chain drug stores. As a pharmacist, I saw the little guy lose money on insurance reimbursements, and the big pharma chains profit. I realized why so many small practices left the insurance world and decided to become a cash only pharmacy. For the pharmacies losing money on insurance reimbursements, they were striving to find alternative ways to profit, stay in business, and continue to be a pillar of their community.
The independent pharmacies hired staff aligned with the vision, mission, and core values of their business practices. Care before profit, the patient comes first, and value in health decisions by working with local doctors to improve patients’ well-being.
The big pharma chains, sadly, are looking for a robot to push scripts down the production line and administer record number of vaccines to win an award at years end. There is no longer genuine care and the patient loses in this model.
I often question how my colleagues have become so disconnected from care. Were they motivated by a paycheck, promotions, or did they just not realize what was happening? On the other side, I saw independent pharmacies committed to ethically improving wellness just not financially staying afloat in the long run.
This concerned me. We do not want to lose those who truly put the needs of you over the bottom line.
When Lives Are at Stake
During the COVID pandemic, it was known that certain medications, like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, elicited significant improvements in treating infected patients if started early on.
The independent pharmacies realized this too. They began working along side the doctors prescribing these medications to ensure every patient was helped.
This saved countless lives! Sadly, the big chain pharmacies refused to fill these meds and the patient suffered greatly. Do we want to live in a world where the only access we have to pharmacies are the ones who are compliant with the big pharma agenda?
We need to begin and continue supporting those pharmacies who stood on the frontlines and risked everything to do what is right. We should never be concerned when approaching the pharmacy counter, wondering if we may not be able to pick up any medication our doctors prescribed, especially lifesaving medications.
Certain big pharma chain pharmacies are now filling ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine for COVID treatment, but there's a catch. If you use your insurance, your medication will be rejected when submitted to the insurance company and requiring a prior authorization (PA).
PA’s may take up to 72 hours (about 3 days) once the pharmacist submits the documentation. Every claim submitted is being rejected, and the patient is unable to receive the medication.
We know that early treatment is key to recovery. This delay from the big pharma pharmacy chain will impact your ability to receive the ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine when needed most.
You could choose to pay cash, but then you are at the mercy of trusting the pharmacist staffed at the big pharma chain pharmacy to fill for cash. Once the PA is denied and you ask for the prescription to be filled for cash, again, you are hoping to receive the medication. There is a possibility that you may not. You can avoid this process by choosing an independent pharmacy who will not hesitate to fill ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine for COVID treatment.
How Do We Correct This?
First, you must realize there will be sacrifice. Possibly in the drive to pick up, or mail delivery system of the medication. There could be increased costs for your prescription. Most independent pharmacies can no longer contract with insurance companies due to low or no reimbursement.
Second, it is important to vote with our dollars. Where we shop and fill our prescriptions either build up big pharma or your local community pharmacy. Small business is the backbone of our country. These independent pharmacies are closing in increased numbers because they cannot survive, they need our support.
TWC realizes this is necessary urgent care. The mission, vision, and core values of TWC align with these independent pharmacies and we are reaching out to each one. Our website will show TWC preferred pharmacies. We hope as you read this and do your own research, you will see the urgency and importance of supporting, encouraging, and sharing this information with family and friends. Together we will make a lasting difference and save Main Street America!
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About the Author:
Dr. Jennifer VanDeWater, PMD, is a registered pharmacist licensed in Maine, New York, and Vermont. Dr. Jen is The People's Pharmacist. She is one of the founders of the Integrative Therapeutics Board of The Wellness Company, and a global leader in reinitializing continuum of care processes between pharmacists, patients, and their doctors.