NAVIGATING CHALLENGES AT THE PHARMACY-A PHARMACIST’S PERSPECTIVE

In May of 2000, I had finally finished my long and difficult road of higher level education. I finished not only with a bachelor’s degree in Biology but pursued my Doctorate in Pharmacy. After graduation, I was finally able to serve patients as a community pharmacist and was looking forward to a long career in health care. I spent the following 17 years servings patients as a pharmacist at a large retail pharmacy until I decided in 2017 to take a huge leap of faith and open my own pharmacy. Over the last 20 years, I have seen the profession of pharmacy and the services we provide become more of a commodity rather than a valued service. This was very understandable in that with the creation of large pharmacy benefit managers (Caremark, Express Scripts, etc.) who now take the lion’s share of profits, pharmacies started to make less and less profit for the services they provided. Because of significantly lower pharmacy profits over the last 10-12 years, you started to see fewer and fewer people in the pharmacies where you got your medications. This has no doubt resulted in decrease in service and unfortunately, pharmacists that had very little or no time for you when you needed them.

I left the world of big retail because I saw the need in our community to do pharmacy differently. At Cornerstone Pharmacy, our Mission Statement is that we are a family owned, integrity driven independent pharmacy. We strive to build trusting relationships with our patients allowing us to provide the highest level of pharmaceutical care for those we serve. In the absence of a pharmacist or pharmacy team you value and trust, we often look to one thing in making our decisions to choose a pharmacy and that is the cost required to obtain our medications.

There are many tools and resources at your disposal to help you determine how you could save money on your prescriptions and I will outline a few here for you in this article.

Leveraging generic medications whenever possible

It is no secret that generic medications offer cost savings and in most cases, will yield the same pharmacological effect as the branded medication.

Using Manufacturer Coupons

For many expensive branded medications, physicians are leveraging coupons that could be taken to your pharmacy for savings off your co-pay.

These coupons are leveraged to get you on the medication but will usually have a limited amount of time that they could be used.

Make sure that when the benefits to the coupon run out or expire, you could afford the co-pay when it is no longer discounted.

Very important-Most of these coupons cannot be used if you are on a Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit plan.

Therapy Alternatives

Just because your doctor prescribes a medication for you, this does not mean that it is the only drug that will work. Often, your insurance will have a preferred product within the drug class and this will save you money when prescribed over a non-preferred product.

Another way to save on drugs is understanding your formulary. Again, this goes to preferred products and your insurance will often refer to this as tier 1-4. Tier 1 will usually be your lower co-pays and Tier 4 your highest and in most cases these drugs will all work the same when taken into your body.

Pill Splitting

I would not recommend getting into a habit with pill splitting. In many cases, drugs should not be split and in other cases, won’t split cleanly. Please consult with your pharmacist if you are considering splitting any medication.

I am going to advocate that to save money on your medication costs, you need to find a pharmacy who understands you as a patient, your medical condition as well as your financial situation. Just last week, I spoke with a patient of mine to discuss his financial situation and am working with his doctor to prescribe cost saving alternatives. It is rare to come across a patient that is going to haggle over a few dollars when they know they are being taken care of.

In all walks of life, if you look at where you spend your money, you will agree you don’t mind paying a little more for quality. For example, my Dad has used the same mechanic for 40 years because of the trust and quality of his services. He could compare costs every time he needs work done on his cars, but he chooses the same shop because of the quality of services and trust that has been built up over time. You may be able to apply this principle to a favorite restaurant, flower shop, clothing store, etc. We are not that different and while in some cases you may pay a higher co-pay with us, for the most part we are seeing no difference in co-pay amounts. For our patients without insurance, we have shown to be the best place to be for cost savings.

I will conclude going back to our Mission Statement here at Cornerstone Pharmacy. It is imperative that the pharmacist builds a trusting relationship with his/her patients for the patient to achieve optimal results with their medication therapy. Without trust, patients are unlikely to follow direction and experience a higher quality of life thru pharmaceutical care. If you were in our area, we would welcome you to call and schedule an appointment for a comprehensive medication review. If you’re not in our area, see if you can schedule a comprehensive medication review with your pharmacist.

To find Dr. Greg Collins or his staff, visit Cornerstone Pharmacy in the Wellness Village. Members since January 1, 2018.