Local Sterling pharmacists advocate for their patients at the state Capitol

Published 7:30 am Thursday, April 5, 2018

Two pharmacists from Sterling Pharmacy and Sterling Specialty Pharmacy testified recently before the Minnesota House of Representatives on two pieces of legislation that would increase price transparency for pharmacy patients.

The bills would give pharmacists the ability to talk about less expensive medication options (HF 3024) and allow them to sell those medications (HF 3012).

Eric Slindee, a pharmacist at Sterling in Harmony and Tim Gallagher, president of Sterling Specialty Pharmacy, spoke against a gag order that prohibits pharmacists from letting patients know they would save on their medications if they pay in cash—rather than having their insurance take over. By breaking the gag order, pharmacists could be kicked out of their Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM) network, forcing patients to pay even more at the pharmacy.

“The cost of prescriptions is a major roadblock for many patients,” said Slindee. “Our pharmacists serve in small towns across the state. We get to know our patients very well and work to offer solid healthcare advice. This gag order stops us from discussing affordable medication options which erodes our relationships with our patients.”

If passed, the legislation also increases transparency into how medications are adjudicated and how a patient’s PBMs sometimes increases the patient cost for medications. For example, if a copay is more than the usual and customary price, that cost would need to be paid, and then the PBM later comes back and ‘claws back’ the difference.

“That doesn’t help the patient,” said Gallagher, who also testified and lent his support for both measures.

“With the consolidation and scrutiny that we see in the healthcare marketplace, we’re honored to be in the position to advocate on behalf of our patients, who we have pledged to serve every day,” said Sam Ewing of Austin, president of Sterling Pharmacy.