Oklahoma lawmakers fighting against pharmacy restrictions

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Hundreds of locally-owned pharmacies in Oklahoma are depending on the 'Right to Pharmacy Choice Act' to be passed in order to keep up with larger competitors and allow customers to decide where their prescription are filled.

“That relationship is very strong between the health care professors and the patients,” said Pharmacist Dani Lynch.

Lynch has been building relationships with her customers at Thrifty Pharmacy for more than two decades.

“If someone has an illness or your child has an illness, don't you want to know who is putting that pill in your body?” she said. “I would.”

Lynch is closely following two bills, as they move through the Oklahoma legislature.

House Bill 2632 and Senate Bill 841 hope to add regulations to pharmacy Benefit Managers or PBMs.

Both bills would let Oklahomans choose where to get their prescriptions filled, something that is often chosen by your insurance provider.

“You have freedom of choice wherever you want,” Lynch said.

PBMs act as the middle man between patients and pharmacies. They’re hired by insurance companies to determine the price of the drug.

“This is supposed to save money and, most of the time, it does not,” Lynch said.

“Frankly, some of your increases in health care costs is the rise of these PBMs,” said Representative Jon Echols.

Echols said they usually force customers to go to bigger competitors such as CVS, Walgreens or mail order.

But, the bills would look to regulate the third party companies.

“It wouldn’t put PBMs out of business,” Echols said. “That’s not true, but what it would do is open up the playing field and add substantially more transparency on where the money goes and what's happening with it. Most of all, it is stopping the hiding of profits inside these PBMs.”

With the future looming, independently-owned pharmacies like Thrifty said they’re unsure if they will be able to put up a fight much longer.

“We want to make sure they understand why they are taking something and you aren't getting that when something just comes in a box in the mail,” Lynch said. “What do you do? Get on the phone, and go through the menu?”

Both bills are waiting to be heard in the other chamber.

The last day for either bill to be passed is Friday.

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