Independents launch petition to fight mandatory mail order

October 25, 2004

Mad as hell about mandatory mail-order contracts, some independent pharmacists have launched petition drives to put pressure on state legislators to ban a practice they feel is bad for their patients and may be even worse for their businesses.

Mad as hell about mandatory mail-order contracts, some independent pharmacists have launched petition drives to put pressure on state legislators to ban a practice they feel is bad for their patients and may be even worse for their businesses.

As of early this month, 20,000 customers had signed petitions circulated by members of the Westchester and Rockland County Society of Pharmacists in New York State, according to president Walter "Bill" Ryder, owner of Hilltop Pharmacy in Manhattan. Dubbed "Raise your voice for freedom of choice," the petition drive aims to put pressure on politicians to pass legislation to ban mandatory mail order.

"We in pharmacy have been so fragmented, each person wants to fight a different issue. But this is not an owner issue or a chain issue, it's everyone," said Ryder. "This is the first situation in which neither the pharmacist nor the customer has anything to say about it because the big corporations are calling the shots and trying to run health care. We can make a very good fight for everyone for a level playing field."

The grassroots efforts to derail mandatory mail order "are great," said John Rector, executive VP/general counsel, National Community Pharmacists Association. "If it's legislation you're after, you need lots of consumers. Informing the consumer about what's going on is a good way to do this. Anything that brings attention to what's really going on helps facilitate the kind of legislation we would want."

Pharmacy today is in the same situation with mandatory mail order that it was in during the early 1970s when the first third-party plans began to appear, according to Peter Reiss, GSPO executive VP. He doesn't want the profession to repeat that mistake. "If mandatory mail order takes hold, independent pharmacy is dead in the water," he said.

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