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Okeechobee pharmacist demands 'special session on drug pricing reform'

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Posted at 7:29 PM, Feb 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-13 19:36:41-05

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — A popular pharmacist is calling for prescription drug pricing reform in Florida after a newly released report shows small pharmacies are having a difficult time competing with corporate giants and some in our region fear they will have to close their doors.

For decades JoAnne White has chosen Okeechobee Discount Drugs for the savings and the people.

“The prescriptions are just ridiculous,” said White. “If [this drugstore] goes out of business and I have to go to one of these others – I don’t know what I’ll have to do.”

On Thursday, White and other customers stood in the drugstore – not for prescriptions – but to draw attention to the need for reform.

“It is imperative that we demand a special session on drug pricing reform,” said Steven Nelson, registered pharmacist, and Okeechobee Discount Drugs owner. “Lawmakers in Tallahassee continue to walk down the slow path of PBM reform.”

Nelson is referencing a Jan. 30 report entitled “Sunshine in the Black Box of Pharmacy Benefits Management” released by 3 Axis Advisors and commissioned by the Florida Pharmacy Association (FPA) and American Pharmacy Cooperative, Inc. (APCI). The report highlighted the impact of “spread pricing” and the “differential drug pricing” small pharmacies face due to Pharmacy Benefits Management (PBM) reimbursing smaller pharmacies at lower rates.

“If the medication costs me $10 they pay me $1.50 to fill the prescription. Whereas their stores may get $10 to $15 to fill the prescription,” said Nelson.

During an in-store press conference, Nelson said it’s a state issue that's forced 167 pharmacies in Florida to close and cut his customer base by half. He's now calling for state regulation and he’s got the backing of high-ranking customers.

“Greater transparency is the key,” said Sheriff Noel E. Stephen, Okeechobee County sheriff. “So that our citizens – particularly our seniors do not have to make the tough decisions between which pill to take today or what they can eat tonight.”

“I should be paid the same amount of dollars. Same amount of money,” Nelson added. “I shouldn’t be paid any less. Plain and simple.”

Nelson is urging his customers to contact elected officials and demand PBM reform. To read the full report, click here.