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Mom & Pop Rxs Battle Giants – QNS.com

Mom & Pop Rxs Battle Giants

Mohammed Aminullah named his pharmacy after his daughter when he started the business on Junction Boulevard 14 years ago. Originally from Bangladesh, Aminullah learned Spanish, and now speaks fluently to the elderly Dominican and Mexican ladies waiting in narrow aisles filled with bottles that emit a pungent, chalky odor unique to tiny store-front pharmacies. They chatter with him about their children and backaches, and one gushes about her years of dependence on Aminullah.
"I wouldnt change this small one for any of the big ones," said Isabel Polo, who has come to Aminullahs pharmacy since it opened.
In a measure to protect independent pharmacies, Weiner introduced legislation last week that would help the small businesses become more competitive.
Between 1990 and 2003, there was a 182 percent increase in the big chains in Queens and a 24 percent decrease in independent pharmacies according to statistics provided by Congressman Anthony Weiner.
"I know most of the people, and the people know me, so they come to me," said Aminullah. But his success is precarious. The number of Duane Reade, CVS and Rite Aid stores popping up throughout the borough is overwhelming Aminullah and other small pharmacies who cant compete with the low prices and wide variety of merchandise the large chains can offer. "I used to do 100 prescriptions a day, now I do only 50," said Aminullah. "The business has been cut in half."
The bill would amend anti-trust law, which prohibits small businesses from collective bargaining, to allow independent pharmacies to band together in negotiations with drug companies. Currently the large chains have the advantage because they can order drugs in bulk, and get discounts, while small pharmacies must pay full price for their smaller orders.
Another provision of the bill would make contracts between drug companies and pharmacies more transparent. Many pharmacies use Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), middlemen who negotiate between drug companies and stores, to make deals on drug sales. The PBMs usually take a percentage for themselves, but the amount they skim off the top is usually hidden.
When small pharmacies deal with PBMs, the extra amount they must pay for their services is often prohibitive since they buy less, and sell less, of the product. Weiners bill would force PBMs to disclose how much they claim for themselves when they make a deal.
Duane Reade released a statement in response to the bill blaming the decline of independent pharmacies on legislators, who have reduced prescription reimbursement levels. "Statistical studies show that larger chains offer far better value on health care products than do independent pharmacies," the statement added.
"What [the bill] is intended to do is to give the mom and pop pharmacies a fighting chance," countered Anson Kaye, spokesperson for Congressman Weiner.
Aminullah says that despite the difficulties brought on by competition from the big chains, he hopes the close relationships he has developed with his customers in the community will keep him afloat. "We have built the business on the goodwill of the people," he said.
E-mail this reporter at sarah@queenscourier.com .

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