NewsWhere Your Voice Matters


Prescription problems: Pharmacist explains why 'record amount of pharmacies' are closing

VOC Pharmacies.jpg
Posted at 5:32 PM, Jun 27, 2024

LIVONIA, Mich. (WXYZ) — Walgreens announced on Thursday that it's closing about a fourth of its 8,600 stores. The announcement comes after Rite Aid recently announced it's filing for bankruptcy.

Pharmacist Rudy Najm, who owns and operates i Pharmacy in Livonia, said there are a mix of reasons pharmacies are closing. But a major problem, he said, is insurance companies have too much control.

He said insurance companies are failing to reimburse pharmacies properly after the pharmacy fills a patient’s prescription.

Screenshot 2024-06-27 at 5.02.53 PM.png

“Pharmacies are facing huge losses because they’re not getting reimbursed fairly, and we’re losing money,” he said. “We have a lot, triple-digit reimbursements below costs.”

Then there are Pharmacy Benefit Managers, or PBMs, which are hired by insurance companies. Najm said Pharmacy Benefit Managers dictate where patients can go to get their prescriptions filled. So even if the patient lives across the street from a Rite Aid, that patient may be required to go to CVS. That’s called “patient steering.”

Or, the patient may be required to receive their prescriptions in the mail.

Screenshot 2024-06-27 at 5.24.47 PM.png

“The U.S. is the land of the free, and you ought to be able to (be) free to get your prescription filled wherever you want, when you want,” Najm said.

If the patient still chooses to go to a third-party pharmacy to get their prescription filled, Njam said that’s when the insurance company shortchanges that pharmacy by failing to reimburse the pharmacy fairly.

“You know, I hope that independent pharmacies could survive and maybe thrive. I hope there will be more of these. But in this world today dominated by giants, who knows?” Patricia Mattson said.

Screenshot 2024-06-27 at 5.25.22 PM.png

She said she’s been a customer at i Pharmacy since day one after following Najm when he left CVS Pharmacy years ago. She said she values the personalized customer service.

Elaine O'Neill said she depends on Walgreens in Livonia. She's upset to hear locations — yet to be determined — are closing.

“I don’t even want them to consider this one,” she said. “It’s very convenient here because I don’t drive. I get a friend to bring me and I wouldn’t have the nerve to ask him to take me any further."

Screenshot 2024-06-27 at 5.26.21 PM.png

That’s what Najm said it will ultimately come down to, and that's customers feeling the impact.

“So, we have record amount of pharmacies closing and just who’s going to survive this tough environment and stay operational until they pass health care reforms where they will make it a fair business environment,” Najm said.