SLATE HILL – Senator James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley), Senator Mike Martucci (R, C, I–New Hampton), the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, and local pharmacists rallied at NeighborhoodRx Pharmacy in Slate Hill on May 6, calling on the state to save mom-and-pop pharmacies.
With just a few remaining weeks of legislative session in Albany, Senators Skoufis and Martucci are championing swift action to protect independent pharmacies from corporate giants known as Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs). The largest PBMs are part of companies like CVS Caremark, Express Scripts, and OptumRx, and produce about 80% of prescriptions in the country. Local pharmacies have been getting pummeled by PBMs for years, and their impact has been felt acutely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Chair of the Senate Committee on Investigations & Government Operations, Senator Skoufis launched an investigation into the PBM industry in January 2019, issuing policy recommendations which propelled legislation to require PBM transparency. This was ultimately vetoed by Governor Cuomo, a move that Senator Skoufis called “beyond disappointing” in a statement at the time. With just five weeks left of the current session, time is running out to pass the updated PBM legislation and a host of other bills designed to protect community pharmacies and keep big pharma in check.
“Taking on the pharmaceutical industry is an uphill battle, but I won’t stop until we get this right,” said Senator Skoufis. “When there’s a family facing a health crisis, it’s not CVS or PBM companies that are out delivering medications or opening the shop after hours to lend a hand. At local little league games, you won’t see CVS or PBMs on the backs of those team t-shirts as sponsors. This is a battle for the vitality of an entire industry, but more than that, for the character of our communities—our friends, neighbors, and local pharmacists.”
“Local pharmacists are the backbone of our main streets, “ said Senator Martucci. “The legislative package Senator Skoufis and I support will level the playing field and allow our local pharmacies to fairly compete in the marketplace. The struggle against corporate Pharmacy Benefit Managers and unfair government terms and conditions is a David vs Goliath situation and I’m proud to be standing up for the underdogs. I urge Legislative leaders in both houses to take up this package and pass it before we end session this June. Our pharmacies’ futures depend on swift action. There isn’t a moment to lose.”
One local pharmacist, Angelo Angerame of Middletown’s Hudson Regional Long-Term Care Pharmacy, offered a case-in-point at the rally: the story of a young mother on Christmas Day who needed medicine for her newborn, and was able to get the help she needed after hours at NeighboRX. “That’s the intangible,” said Angerame. “It’s about being accessible, being there; that’s what independent pharmacies do. I hope when people think about this issue, they know that it’s about making sure their community is being taken care of.”
In addition to existing bills around PBM requirements (S3762), adjustments to mail-order prescription requirements (S1772), and ending the practice of unjustifiable drug price markups (S1768), Skoufis and Martucci are introducing other legislation in the coming days aimed at ensuring the long-term sustainability of community pharmacies.