BEACON FALLS — A new prescription program run by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities leaves the local pharmacy hurting.
The Board of Selectmen voted to enroll the town in CCM’s Prescription Discount Card Program in September. The program says that it can save residents without insurance up to 45 percent on their prescriptions.
During the board’s meeting in September, First Selectman Gerard Smith said that he had spoke with Robert Bradley, owner of Beacon Falls Pharmacy. At the time, Bradley had no objections to the cards.
However, during Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, less than three months since enrolling, Smith explained that a problem had arisen.
“So now the public has all these cards in hand … and now it seems there’s a potential it could negatively impact the pharmacy,” Smith said.
Bradley, who was in attendance at the meeting, explained the cards he was used to seeing did not offer discounts like CCM’s does.
“The reality of it is that, in general, these cards discount prices slightly and, more often than not, my cash price is already better than what the cards take it down to,” Bradley said.
However, with this card, the discount is so deep that Bradley is only seeing $2 to $3 in profits.
“Basically, it costs me more to fill up a prescription than they’re reimbursing me. And just to add insult to injury, on the back end they charge a $2.40 for each prescription that we fill under the card, because that’s where the guys issuing the card make their money,” Bradley said.
Bradley said he’s now faced with a decision between losing money or customers.
“I’m faced with filling prescriptions at a loss or losing customers,” Bradley said. “I lost one of Friday. ‘You’re not going to be taking it? Well, who is going to be taking it,’ they asked. Then, out the door went the customer.”
Bradley said that the industry standard is a profit of $12.35 per prescription. The card offers him a profit that is sometimes much less than half of that.
“Typically I see an $11 profit. That’s the ballpark for a profit on a prescription. The first half-a-dozen I did ranged from $2 to $7 in profits. You pay $50 an hour for a pharmacist, $15 an hour for a technician, and putting the lights on and you can only do so many prescriptions an hour safely,” Bradley said. “At those rates, technically we’re taking a loss.”
Bradley said that the card company claims to have negotiated with the pharmacies, but had never negotiated with his pharmacy or, to the best of his knowledge, his pharmacy group.
Smith said that he understood where Bradley was coming from with his concerns, but didn’t think that the board could revoke the program at this point.
“I hear you and I’m 100 percent with you, but on the other side, how do we look to the people if we take the program away that we offered to the public and they can save money on,” Smith said.
Bradley felt that, now that the program was out there, it was out of the board’s hands.
“Whether you take the program away or not, [residents] can still get the card by going to the website. There’s nothing you can really do,” Bradley said.
Bradley acknowledged that Smith had talked with him before enrolling in the program, but he did not fully understand what he getting into at the time.
“I know your intentions were good. We talked about it and I said ‘I’m not going to say don’t do it.’ I appreciate you giving me the courtesy of calling ahead of time,” Bradley said. “It’s just that, once the details are out, I regret that conversation.”
Bradley explained that he did not hold the board liable for this dilemma he is now in.
“I don’t have any hard feelings over it. Don’t take this the wrong way. The way it happened is how it happened. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the pharmacy business these days,” Bradley said.
Bradley was concerned about this program because he already has a cash-price structure in place.
“We have a very aggressive pricing structure down there,” Bradley said. “We beat any of the chain pharmacies substantially on price, any time.”
Bradley explained that he had a customer come in looking for a specific medicine, which cost about $50 at his pharmacy. The same medication cost $180 at CVS and $333 at Stop and Shop.
“It’s just getting started, so I can’t say what percentage of my customers will bring it in. Cash prescriptions represent between 5 and 10 percent of my business. I don’t want to lose 5 to 10 percent of my business, but that’s where we are at this point,” Bradley said.
Bradley says that he currently does not intend to accept the card at his pharmacy, but he will give it consideration on a case-by-case basis. He knows that, by choosing not to accept the card, he might lose customers.
“I can either fill the prescription at a loss or risk losing customers. It’s a no-win situation for me,” Bradley said.