PAXTON, Ill. (WCIA) — Local independent pharmacies are getting some extra cash from the state to help them stay in business in the midst of rising prescription drug costs and a shrinking number of available pharmacies.
The state is finally implementing the 10 million dollar Critical Access Pharmacy program. This was included as part of last year’s state budget, but was stalled by then-Governor Bruce Rauner. Now the money should be coming through.
The state is providing money for critical access pharmacies in counties of less than 50,000 people.
The pharmacy industry is in the midst of a major shift. While Andy Hudson says his family’s pharmacy in Paxton, Hudson Drug Store, isn’t in danger of shutting down, he has seen profits plummet. He says, “It’s kind of scary when you see your profit on a small amount of prescriptions go down tens of thousands of dollars.”
Some locally owned pharmacies are getting pushed out of business. Hudson says, “Our main competition is the insurance companies eroding our profits and having more hurdles to provide care to our patients.”
A news release from state Senator Andy Manar said, “Throughout rural Illinois communities, consumers have experienced skyrocketing drug prices because of the poorly regulated Pharmacy Benefit Manager industry. Those operations craft special deals with large corporate chain stores that small, independent and locally-owned operations can’t compete with.”
The state is providing this money to give them some relief. Hudson Drug Store was told they would receive tens of thousands of dollars. But even though the owners are grateful for the help, they don’t think it’s not a long term solution.
Hudson says, “It’s almost a band aid approach, but they are offering the critical access funding to make up for the losses we’ve received through the manage care switch-over.”
To put this in perspective, in the past year at Hudson Drug Store, the number of prescriptions filled went up 32%. But their profit went down by 83% because of the changes in pharmacy policies.
Donna Watson has worked at Hudson Drug Store for five years. While small town pharmacies may be going out of business, she wants to remind people of the benefits of buying local. She says, “At the corporate offices you may not know half the people who you’re talking to on the phones or if you have an issue. Here, if you tell somebody you have a problem, they’re going to get it figured out right away.”
Pharmacies are still waiting for the money to be released. When Hudson Drug Store gets it, they plan to expand their business into Champaign with a mobile delivery service and update their technology.