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This small-town pharmacy may be a model for more affordable drugs

Honest Rx operates like any other pharmacy in the United States — with one big exception. It does not accept health insurance.

Pharmacist and owner Matthew Garner opened his business in 2022, after over 20 years of working in and managing other pharmacies. In that time, companies like CVS have become behemoths by merging with pharmacy benefit managers and insurers.

Garner observed how chain pharmacies, insurers, and pharmacy benefit managers obscured the true cost of drugs, so he set out to open a pharmacy with a wholly transparent business model that supplies affordable medication directly to patients. Garner sells most medications at wholesale cost plus 20% and a $6.50 dispensing fee.

With many pharmacies hobbled by shrinking reimbursement rates from health insurance and pharmacy benefit managers, more independent pharmacists are looking into becoming cash-only, said Kurt Proctor, senior vice president of strategic initiatives for the National Community Pharmacists Association.

“Allowing these pharmacies to not be involved in third parties … and just being a pure cash business, it allows them flexibility to price, frankly, much more favorably for patients.” Proctor said.

As for Garner, Honest Rx became profitable only a few months after opening and has set his eyes on expanding his mail-order business.

“We’re dealing with smaller numbers, but so much more time and frustration is freed up,” he said. “It makes pharmacists be able to actually act as pharmacists. It’s a viable business model for sure.”

In this video, learn more about Garner’s business and what experts think about how direct pay models could affect drug pricing.

Author: Hyacinth Empinado for STAT News


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