Pharmacists, labor and seniors oppose medicine cuts

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Representatives of labor, seniors and the California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) sent California governor Gray Davis a boxful of empty medicine bottles with labels opposing “Appalling cuts to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, sick and elderly ... leaving thousands without access to essential medicines.”

Davis’ proposed state budget would cut $110 million in pharmacy Medi-Cal reimbursements. Medi-Cal is the California Medicaid program that provides some health benefits to indigent seniors and disabled people.

“Many of the independent pharmacies throughout California are going to be forced to drop out of the Medi-Cal program or simply close their businesses altogether,” said Carlo Michelotti, R.Ph., MPH, Chief Executive Officer of the CPhA, at a press conference on the steps of the California State Capitol in Sacramento.

The Governor’s proposals would deliver a fatal blow to patient access to independent pharmacies in inner cities and rural areas of the state, Michelotti said. Independent or “mom and pop” pharmacies are often the only ones available in underserved communities.

The cuts would force many pharmacies to operate at or below their cost of doing business. Independent pharmacies, which average only 2.5 percent profit, cannot absorb the proposed drastic cuts, while chain pharmacies, which sell many other products besides medications, would not be as affected, Michelotti said.

California has a drug discount program for seniors, but it is offered only at pharmacies that participate in Medi-Cal. If pharmacies pull out of the Medi-Cal system, seniors will lose their much-needed discounts.

The author can be reached at ncalview@igc.org