Donahue highlights fiscal challenges for independent pharmacies

Committee hears testimony on how abusive practices hurt patients

SCRANTON, May 15 – Two owners of independent pharmacies highlighted the fiscal challenges they face, and each highlighted abusive practices that are harming patients – specifically seniors and people with disabilities – across the state. The House Majority Policy Committee held the hearing at the Scranton Counseling Center to learn more from independent pharmacy owners.

“The way the system currently functions, pharmacy benefits managers are supposed to negotiate a reasonable price for prescriptions through Medicaid, but we heard directly from pharmacy owners today that those savings are not being passed on to consumers,” said state Rep. Kyle T. Donahue, who hosted the hearing and represents portions of Lackawanna County. “In this case, the PBMs – a third-party – is not only pocketing taxpayer dollars but they are also driving the escalation of drug prices.”   

Testimony detailed that in many instances, pharmacy benefits managers – which are third-party companies that function as intermediaries between insurance providers and pharmaceutical manufacturers – are pocketing billions in taxpayer dollars. The practices reduce the Medicaid budget and escalate costs. It’s one reason that lawmakers, as well as the Pennsylvania Pharmacy Association, have supported legislation to reform pharmacy benefits managers now.

“Pharmacy benefits managers are pocketing taxpayer dollars, underpaying our family-owned local pharmacies and shortchanging seniors,” said House Majority Policy Chairman Ryan Bizzarro, who represents portions of Erie County. “It’s sickening behavior, and it’s one reason reform is needed.”

Testifiers highlighted reforms, including H.B. 1993 by state Rep. Jess Benham, which would set guidelines and protect pharmacies. Benham’s bill would limit or ban several practices by PBMs, including patient steering, spread pricing and retroactive recoupment of money paid by the PBM to the pharmacy. Behnam’s bill would also direct the state’s Insurance Department to develop a process for hearing and resolving pharmacy complaints against a PBM.

“This is not a Pittsburgh issue or a Scranton issue. In rural areas, small towns, suburbs, and cities, community pharmacies are closing. Unless we enact reforms, we will continue to lose these trusted institutions that provide personalized service to their customers. My legislation will give them a level playing field with the large corporate pharmacies,” said Rep. Benham, who represents portions of Allegheny County.

Wednesday’s House Majority Policy hearing featured testimony from Eric Pusey, the owner of Better Health Pharmacy & Wellness in Olyphant, and Tom DePietro, the owner of DePietro’s Pharmacy in Dunmore.

“Family-owned pharmacies and our small locally owned pharmacies are being put out of business by greedy practices,” Donahue said. “The closure of independent pharmacies hurts not only the owners but also their patients that rely on this personalized, caring service they receive from their community pharmacies.”

Information about this hearing and other House Majority Policy Committee hearings can be found at The hearing can be watched in its entirety from the livestream. Submitted written testimony can be found here. Photos to be used for publication can be found at

The hearing marked the Policy Committee’s 25th event of the year spread across 15 ZIP codes throughout the state. The committee travels the state to hear from workers, experts, advocates and professionals in the field about issues affecting Pennsylvania residents. The committee’s next event is scheduled for Thursday, May 23 in Harrisburg. The hearing topic is the educator pipeline and will be co-hosted by the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.