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UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan — The corner neighborhood drug store has been a life saver through the decades. 

But pharmacists and owners of the small businesses say they’re financial health is in trouble during the pandemic. 

They have been a lifeline for Covid testing and vaccinations. About 2,000 independent pharmacies are in New York.

Ilana Aminov is the pharmacist at Drug Mart on York Avenue at East 86th Street 

“If they don’t address this we will close,” she says. 

The problem is on the business end behind the counters. There’s a process, managed by private corporations, for reimbursing local pharmacies for the price of prescription drugs. 

The state of New York had planned to enact some reforms this year, but the local pharmacists say the process has been delayed. 

Roger J. Paganelli, RPh, is Supervising Pharmacist and Co-Owner Mount Carmel in Belmont section of the Bronx. It’s a third generation operation. 

“We open the doors each and every day with the community in mind. We are working with the senate to come up with something that’s more sustainable for us,” he said

There have been other proposals to reform the system and give the state a larger role. The local pharmacies sat they’re not being fairly reimbursed for the prescriptions from patients on Medicaid. 

Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM) decide many of the details of the pricing and rebate structure. 

Local pharmacies say they lose money on some prescriptions. 

Javier Maldonado is Director of Operations at Mount Carmel. He’s concerned for neighbors during these times. 

“Now add that their local community pharmacy closes and they cant get medication. Now what do they do,” he said. 

The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation promoting health care, says “PBMs operate in the middle of the distribution chain for prescription drugs” and can “use their purchasing power to negotiate rebates and discounts from drug manufacturers.”
The study also advised that PBMs may have an incentive to favor some medications over others.

Several other states have been enacting reforms.