Pharmacies decline to bid

Sunday, September 30, 2007

YARMOUTH, Maine - While HMEs in the first 10 competitive bidding areas scramble to submit bids, many community pharmacies remain on the sidelines.
"My observation is that pharmacies are not engaged at this point in competitive bidding," said Bill Popomaronis, vice president of long term and home health care at the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).
With the exception of mail order, diabetes supplies are exempt, and many pharmacies do relatively small amounts of DME, causing them to question whether the expense associated with accreditation and bidding is worth it.
"I don't make any money on it now," said Joe Park, president of Dougherty's Pharmacy, in Dallas. "To try and bid on a low price? It's not worth the effort at this time."
According to the 2006 NCPA-Pfizer Digest, the average independent pharmacy has annual sales of $3.75 million, including prescription drug and tobacco sales. For purposes of NCB, CMS defines a small business as one with sales of no more than $3.5 million. That pits most independent pharmacies against bigger players and prevents them from forming networks in order to bid.
"Less than $3.5 million is all well and good for most HMEs," said Popomaronis. "But, the majority of community pharmacies are locked out of being defined as small suppliers."
VGM Vice President Pat Suda said as far as submitting bids, she hasn't seen too many pharmacies jumping on "the bandwagon."
"The bigger pharmacies, I think, are," said Suda. "The smaller ones are sitting in the back waiting."