Lubbock independent pharmacies losing patients after change to Veterans’ network

Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 10:57 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - TRICARE’s new pharmacy network changes went into effect Monday, impacting many veterans and independent pharmacies in the Lubbock area. Its impact stretches across the country, now many veterans are no longer able to use their health insurance at thousands of local, independently-owned pharmacies. TRICARE is the health care program for uniformed service members, retirees, and their families. TRICARE’s pharmacy benefit manager, or PBM, is Express Scripts. Two Lubbock pharmacists say Express Scripts couldn’t reach an agreement with independent pharmacies across the nation, so 15,000 left its network.

Chris Hobart, the pharmacist in charge at Twin Oaks Pharmacy on 34th St., says this change forced several of his patients to change pharmacies.

“A lot of our veterans live in rural areas where all they have is an independent pharmacy and now they’re being forced to travel further to get their prescriptions, or not being able to use the pharmacist that they’ve known for years,” Hobart said.

TRICARE sent a letter to the veterans this change would impact last month. Hobart says he’s had to have tough conversations with his patients.

“Veterans just tend to, you know, there’s veteran-owned businesses and other things and a lot of them like to shop locally and do things for the local community. And I can think of a few people off the top of my head that I know were already impacted, ‘cause I had to let them know about this ahead of time, that I know are already unhappy about it,” Hobart said.

Jared Thornhill, owner of Thornhill’s Pharmacy on 82nd St., says Express Scripts has made it unsustainable for independent pharmacies to take care of veterans and maintain a profit.

“What makes it so difficult is that these PBM’s and these large companies also own their own pharmacies, so they’re, they own direct competition to us. So, because they own that competition, it seems like they’re moving it there. You can’t really say, you know, I think someone should probably check on it, that is what I’m saying,” Hobart said.

Hobart says he got into the business to help his patients, but he needs the government’s help to keep doing that. Last year, the Texas legislature passed a bill to prohibit PBM’s from steering patients to pharmacies they own.

“The problem is there is no agency in Texas that can enforce that law. If I’m wrong, please tell me who it is, because I’ve called everybody,” Hobart said.

The Federal Trade Commission is in the middle of an investigation into the prescription drug middleman industry, requiring the six largest pharmacy benefit managers to provide information and records regarding their business practices.

TRICARE states more than 40,000 pharmacies are still in the network, including chains like CVS and Walgreens. It has a ‘Find a Pharmacy’ tool on its website.