Local independent pharmacy fighting to stay open despite losing money to fill prescriptions

Along Main Street in Evans City, there’s a Butler County mainstay: Evans City Pharmacy and Gift Shoppe. Behind the counter is the longtime owner Jeff Mustovic.

“It’s the heartbeat. It’s the hub of the town,” said David English, a longtime customer.

After decades there, Mustovic knows each and every one of his customers by name.

“That’s what is keeping me here for 35 years. I’ve been part of this community and I love these people to death for the loyalty they’ve shown me,“ Mustovic said.

Love and customer loyalty might not be enough, though. Mustovic is struggling to stay open. This year alone, he’s lost more than $50,000. He blames the middlemen, pharmacy benefit managers (PBM), who he says are not fairly reimbursing pharmacies for medications.

“It’s gone from bad to worse to unsustainable,” Mustovic said. “We need the PBMs to offer us contracts that we are allowed to make a living and that’s really been taken away.”

Mustovic said he often loses hundreds of dollars filling up just one prescription.

Since January, at least 80 pharmacies have closed across Pennsylvania. Many are in our area, including some in Butler, Westmoreland and Allegheny counties.

“We are creating what is known as a pharmacy desert,” Mustovic said.

Mustovic fears he’s next. His customers said they would be devastated.

“He’s not just someone who works in our community, he’s a friend,” said Becky Mackay, a longtime customer. “Jeff’s care is a really big part of why we come here in a major way and the staff, they recognize my children. We have seven kids. If one of my kids walks through the door, they know who they are.”

Other customers are afraid they’d be left in limbo.

“I was actually diagnosed with cancer eight years ago, so my medications come through here and some of them have been specialty meds,” English said. “I’m not the only one who trusts him, this whole community trusts him so the loss to the community would be immense.”

Right now, legislators are pushing a bipartisan bill to bring “desperately needed reform” to how PBMs operate in Pennsylvania. They want to ensure pharmacies are reimbursed for the cost of buying and dispensing drugs. Governor Josh Shapiro also recently called for reform in his state budget address. Mustovic hopes help comes sooner rather than later.

“I measure success in how many people did I help today and every day,” Mustovic said. “Time is of the essence. We have no oxygen left to breathe financially to keep this ship afloat.”

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