As the prices of prescription drugs continues to rise, and more Americans are left without health insurance, trips to Canada and Mexico for affordable drugs have become more common, especially for senior citizens. But now residents of the Tampa bay area have new option—a non=profit pharmacy selling prescription drugs at wholesale. WMNFS Andrew Stelzer has more from Palm Harbor.

For more information about the neighborly care network Pharmacy, call 727-289-5030, or go to www.neighborly.org


ACT “we started with 4 phone lines over here….we average 500 phone calls a day….�

Gaston Bedard is the Pharmacy director at the neighborly care network pharmacy, which opened for business on January 4th.

ACT “so people go back home and they tell their friends, relatives, it’s a snowball effect…we thought maybe 6 months�

The neighborly care network gets all their drugs legally, through outlets in the United States. Gaston say he doesn’t trust drugs coming from Canada, although he himself is a native Canadian. When Gaston, along with Debra Shade, decided to open the Neighborly care network as a project of the non-profit organization, the goal wasn’t to work outside the system; It was simply to put out a lifeline to the thousands of senior citizens who aren’t able to afford medications that they need.

ACT “us senior citizens need help because were on fixed incomes…..�

ACT “I had route canal bunch of other stuff, 2000 ran out of money, leveled with my physician this week, he said it’ll be bad get back on it, so thats where I am…are we saving you money ? not a whole lot but yes…high cholesterol..�

The neighborly care network sells at cost to people over 60 without insurance, or those under 60 for an 8-dollar fee. Sometimes the savings wont be much, but for people who are on 5 or 10 prescriptions every month, a few dollars here and there can add up to thousands of dollars a year. Often there wont be any savings on a particular medication, because large chain pharmacies can afford to buy in bulk and offer low prices on certain drugs. But sometimes the savings is huge.

ACT “last week I had a guy, who was getting a special medication, 1 item for 1600, he called me I said 1276, he called back and said are you sure? On the average I save between 20 and 1000 for people thats wonderful�

Currently, the pharmacy sells about 25 thousand dollars worth of prescriptions each week, and that number is going up all the time. Even some people with insurance, like carol Spencer, are coming to neighborly care to save money.

ACTS “with my insurance it was more expensive than coming here and not using insurance, they�

Neighborly care is hiring a second staff member next week, there are also two full-time volunteers answering phones every day. Bedard has received a positive reaction from most people in the industry, but that has a lot to do with the fact that most pharmacists are not-self employed, so they aren’t threatened by losing business.

ACTS “after hours I have to stay here and call wall mart, etc.� “I spoke everyday to other pharmacists, they say it’s a great thing�

And some large chains, such as Eckerd, have policies that they will match the lowest price customers can find. Because of this, drug prices throughout Pinellas County are beginning to drop.

ACT “when you see that effect I am happy…more people are going to match me, that s a success.�

Since an article on the pharmacy in the St Petersburg times last weekend, between 40 and 50 new customers are coming in the doors of the neighborly care pharmacy every day. Some are just curious and want to save a few bucks. But others are fed up with a system that seems top be all about money and indifferent to the fact that this business is about keeping people alive. Some of the Pinellas residents are simply curious about

ACTS “the drug companies are robbing people, thats where the problem is and if the government would do something about the drug companies then wed all be better off…IS THERE A SOLUSION---NO because this is the problem>�

“I am afraid that they will eventually be closed down, when you have peoples money in the palm of your hand and they are taking $$$away from other people they are likely to be closed down….because they are taking money way from big drug stores.�

Some of the pharmacies customers are hopeful that the new Medicaid laws will help them be able to afford the medications they need. But Gaston says they are in for an unpleasant surprise.

ACT “whose gonna implement the system? Pharmacists…were gonna be shot at—because of deductible, copay, etc. were gonna have to explain all that to the customer>�

For WMNF News, reporting from Palm Harbor, this is Andrew Stelzer

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