Political efforts to lower drug prices unlikely to have impact, say local pharmacists


Politicians of both parties talk the talk, but local pharmacists say it's not easy to walk the walk. While many call on action to lower drug prices, some say there's not much they can do. "The average patient's medication aren't particularly expensive." Said Mike Deninger, pharmacist and owner of Towncrest Pharmacy in Iowa City. Deninger say most patients use what's known as manage medication, long term treatments that are often sold at affordable prices, with or without insurance.

The high cost often comes from less usual care, which also includes life saving drugs. But Deninger says the average American shouldn't expect any savings in the near future. "The entire medical system is very difficult to make any changes without messing other areas of the system."

One issue Deninger and Senator Chuck Grassley have their sights set on is Pharmacy Benefit Managers, or PBMs. Acting as an intermediary, PBMs are supposed to negotiate lower prices for pharmacies. But the work often eliminates any profit a pharmacy can make from selling the drug. Large chains like CVS and Walgreen's absorb the losses by making it up with groceries, cosmetics and other goods sold before you reach the pharmacy desk. But independent operators don't have that luxury.

Senator Grassley says he's considering calling hearings to address the problem when he takes over the chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee in January. In the meantime, Deninger says he hopes customers find value in using smaller pharmacies. "You're much more likely to actually see and work with a pharmacist at a smaller pharmacy and get a higher level of care."

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