Are You Being ‘Steered Away’ From Your Local Pharmacy?


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A recent survey by the National Community Pharmacist Association, found that almost 80% of their community pharmacist members say they’ve lost patients because of unfair steering in the past six months by other larger pharmacy chains and that CVS Health is most often reported as the biggest culprit.

“Many members have been telling us their patients are being transferred to larger competitors and in many cases the patients don’t know when, why or how. This survey sheds some light on the problem and the results are very disturbing.” According to Doug Hoey, CEO of the National Community Pharmacist Association.

According to the survey, 79% of community pharmacists reported their patient’s prescriptions were transferred to another pharmacy and on average that worked out around 12 patients lost over a six-month period.

But it’s not just CVS who are steering patients according to the survey results.

Walgreens, Amazon Pill Pack and Walmart were also highlighted.

Doug says, “In one case, a California pharmacist heard from his own sister that she was transferred to a chain store without her authorization.”

“That’s a big red flag,” says Hoey. “The pharmacy sector is very competitive and most big chains have aggressive marketing schemes aimed at taking patients from rivals. CVS Health not only owns brick and mortar stores, but it also owns its own insurance companies, Aetna and Caremark. That information allows it to eavesdrop on when and where patients are getting their prescriptions and, as the survey reported, coerce unknowing patients into CVS stores.”

But Ethan Slavin, a spokesperson for CVS hit back at the survey, 

“The ‘survey’ conducted by the business trade association, NCPA, of its own members has no basis in fact. It is nothing but a self-serving attempt to disparage CVS Health and their accusations about us are simply not true.  Our pharmacies only initiate prescription transfers when requested by a patient. Also, CVS Caremark members have access to our broad network of more than 60,000 pharmacies, including most independent pharmacies and chain pharmacies, in addition to CVS Pharmacy.  In fact, more than 40% of the pharmacies in our network are independently owned.  If a plan sponsor chooses a particular network design that includes specific pharmacies, their members are notified in advance.”

Hoey says he believes the results of his organizations survey speaks for itself and when asked if CVS intended to challenge the results of the survey from the NCPA either in or out of court, CVS and their spokesman never returned emails for further comment.

With so much as stake when it comes to healthcare in this country it really is up to ‘you’ the consumer to make sure you understand what it is going on and who’s looking after you.

It’s especially important is you’re a Medicare recipient with Part(D) Drug coverage.

The annual Medicare Open Enrollment Period is here again, and you have until December 7th to review your current Medicare Plan and make sure it’s meeting all your needs.

Also, don’t forget to look out for your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) letter that you should have received at the end of September or the beginning of October, telling you what changes are happening to your plan for the next year.

That means you need to take a look to see if your preferred pharmacy is still on the insurers ‘preferred network’ or not and maybe consider changing your plan to one that will allow you to continue using your local pharmacy.

You can use the FREE – Medicare Plan Finder tool on the official website

Or better still, go and visit your local pharmacy and talk to them about any concerns you have, and they can review your plan with you.

After all, who knows your healthcare needs better than the local pharmacy you and your family may have been going to for years?

It’s not just about saving dollars on your drugs, it’s about keeping local businesses alive and your local pharmacy may be the ‘only’ pharmacy close to you, in what is being described as ‘pharmacy deserts’ as these pharmacies close or are forced out of business leaving people with no local pharmacy for miles or even two or three towns over.

Big box pharmacies aren’t a bad thing.

But as they say, bigger isn’t always better.

Brian Scott-Smith is a local broadcaster and journalist with 20 years experience in the news, TV and Radio business and is the creator and host of the weekly news podcast, Connecticut East This Week, which looks at stories of interest to the communities of eastern Connecticut.