What will the Walgreens $17.2 billion purchase of Rite-Aid mean to chronic pain patients?
It’s a question to ask because the move means that there will be only two national pharmacy chains remaining – Walgreens and CVS. And with pain patients increasingly reporting an increasing difficulty in getting access to their pain medication at the pharmacy level, the question is what happens now?
Obviously, there are no answers yet, but some pain patient advocates are very concerned.
Steve Ariens is a retired pharmacist whose wife is a chronic pain patient. He has written extensively on pharmacy practices that he believes are hurting patients.
“These two mega players will control about 60% of the chain pharmacies in the community and about 25% of all community pharmacies,” he said. “Their economy of scale will result in poorer service and there will be a push to add more tech and/or fewer Pharmacists in the mix which can lead to mistakes and harm patients.”
Dr. Terri Lewis is a rehabilitation expert and chronic patient advocate and she too is skeptical about what this means.
“There is increasing evidence that consumers may not benefit by the consolidation of the pharmaceutical marketplace, particularly where the business decision involves reduction of inventories carried for patients with unique needs,” she said.
Access to quality health care has already been reduced, she believes. And the fact that there will be essentially be a duopoly in the pharmacy world (two main players) worries her that pharmacists will have even less authority.
“Consumers should be concerned about the loss of pharmacist autonomy as regards making judgments about filling prescriptions for patients they know well,” Dr. Lewis added.
While the company isn’t talking about what it plans to do with all the Rite-Aid stories, Ariens thinks there will be fewer.
“All public companies must grow to stay in favor with the stock market,” he said. “The pharmacy department is the most expensive part of running these stores. Cuts seem inevitable.”