When people ask me why I became a pharmacist 22 years ago, the answer is simple: the career found me.
Health care runs deep in my family. My mother was a nurse, my sister and my niece are nurses and my uncle is a pharmacist. When I was looking for a summer job at 17, my sister helped me find one at a pharmacy. To this day, I remember the feeling of watching these pharmacists focus on each patient and answer all patient questions until everyone felt comfortable with their prescriptions. I stayed on the estate all these years later because that summer I fell in love with being able to help our community members lead healthier lives.
In nearly two decades of working as a pharmacist for CVS Health in San Antonio, I have been dedicated to this same principle: to do whatever it takes legally and ethically to ensure our patients have what they need. to stay in good health.
Today, I am the Pharmacist in Charge – with a team of 15 dedicated pharmacists – at our San Antonio site, which shows the incredible importance of pharmaceutical care. We offer our patients, who are primarily Texas Medicaid recipients and statewide individuals who use home delivery to receive their medications, both choice and convenience.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to receive prescriptions by mail has been particularly important, as many patients have sought to limit in-person contact. Preserving this option for patients is essential to supporting a health care system that responds to patients where they are.
My team and I put our patients first by doing all the little things necessary to support positive health outcomes. We adhere to rigorous safety standards, count and verify all medications, and play a central role alongside the patient and their doctor, speaking directly to the doctor’s office if a patient needs clarification on any of his medications so that we can help advise him on his personalized treatment. care. Specific to home medication delivery, my team and I do extra due diligence to ensure patient prescriptions are kept in the right climatic conditions every step of the way.
This commitment to helping Texans access affordable prescription medications, achieve better health outcomes, and ultimately lead healthier lives is at the heart of everything we do at CVS Health. Through our work as Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), we negotiate with big pharma to save money for families and small and large businesses in Texas, helping to preserve affordability and access to prescription drugs. In 2021, CVS Caremark held prescription drug cost growth to just 3.6%. Statewide, PBMs are expected to generate more than $80 billion in savings over the next ten years, putting money back in the pockets of struggling working families and small businesses.
Unfortunately, last year Austin lawmakers passed legislation that is already driving drug costs in our state in the wrong direction. The House Bill of 1919 prohibited small businesses from offering lower-cost pharmacy options to their employees by effectively banning money-saving preferred pharmacy networks. Due to HB 1919, patients are experiencing higher co-payments at the pharmacy counter. When out-of-pocket expenses increase, it leads to higher health care costs across the board, and many patients may end up skipping treatments and having poorer health outcomes.
Before our legislators return for next year’s legislative session, they are once again reviewing health care costs. They need look no further than HB 1919. The bill removed the choices previously available to small businesses regarding the design of their health insurance, options that ultimately helped hardworking Texans get their prescription drugs at the lowest cost. And that challenge will only get worse as big pharma continues to raise prices – in many cases faster than the rate of inflation, multiple times a year.
For decades, I have dedicated my life to helping members of our community access affordable prescription drugs so they can get the care they need. I hope our reps in Austin do the same by reversing HB 1919.
Gilberto Sanchez, PharmD, is chief pharmacist and supervisor, CVS Pharmacy Operations, for CVS Health based in San Antonio, Texas.