I was dismayed to read Erica Buckley’s letter, “The Drug Pushers” [Letters, July 1], and learn of the unethical practice by chain pharmacies of refilling prescriptions early and then pressuring patients to pick them up.
Ms. Buckley asks the valid questions: When did it get this way, and why did we lose control? Perhaps it was when our insurance companies joined alliances with chain pharmacies and convinced patients to abandon their local pharmacies, offering prices that the local stores couldn’t match. Maybe it was when Big Pharma began chasing profits at the expense of actual patients, even severely ill ones, for their bottom line and stockholders.
We lost control when we let chain pharmacies onto the East End in the first place, and when local activists fighting to keep them out of our communities lost the battles, one after another, not having the support of town boards.
Keep in mind that every prescription bottle includes an end date clarifying exactly when one may access the number of refills listed. This is key. The patient has the right to choose when to get those refills, within those dates, if ever. If the date passes, just call your doctor’s office.
You also may transfer the ’script to another pharmacy. As Ms. Buckley stated, “Scary messages that threaten that unretrieved drugs may not be able to be obtained” — that is appalling. In addition to possibly illegal behavior involved, the calls seem like harassment; certainly they are not friendly reminder calls.
Criminal charges have been filed in various states, including New York, for “auto-refill” schemes, in which pharmacies refill prescriptions, charge the insurance company, but the medication is never picked up. Medicare and Medicaid fraud is not uncommon. Always review benefit documents that are sent to you to ensure that your insurance has not been charged for anything you did not receive.
Then come home to your local pharmacy. Their very existence is threatened by the massive takeover of chains. We must support local businesses. Otherwise every sector will be controlled by chains who obviously couldn’t care less about their customers, only their wallets.
We need local pharmacists who are always there for us to answer questions and provide personalized family service. By switching your account away from the chains, we can save our local pharmacies, help to keep our villages unique, while reclaiming our power as informed patients who refuse to be bullied.
While we’re at it, let’s support all our local shops: our independent bookstores, gift shops and restaurants.
The chains don’t need your money. Our neighbors do.
Mary Ann Mulvihill-Decker
One fine body…