Small, independent pharmacies face substantial disadvantages in acquiring drugs with which to fill prescriptions. Big chain pharmacies receive volume discounts and, increasingly, health insurers pressure patients to acquire drugs from mail order warehouses.

Under HR 1946, the Preserving Our Hometown Independent Pharmacies Act, a bill introduced by Rep. Tom Marino, 10th District Republican, local pharmacies would be able to mitigate those disadvantages.

The bill would amend anti-trust law so that independent pharmacies could make joint volume purchases of pharmaceuticals, and collectively negotiate reimbursement rates with insurers. As Marino said, "It's not a level playing field. This bill set out to level that playing field, that's all."

A prescription is a prescription. The difference separating local, independent pharmacies from chains and warehouses is service. Allowing independent pharmacies to acquire drugs collectively would not convert them into chains because their service standard still would be unique to their neighborhoods. In the meantime, the change would come at no cost to the government or anyone else.

Independent pharmacies are an important part of the downtown landscape in almost every local community, from Shamokin to Mount Carmel, Elysburg to Ashland. Here's a smart piece of legislation that, rare as it is, helps these small businesses.

Congress should pass Marino's law in order to help preserve independent drug stores as important institutions, to bolster entrepreneurship and job creation, and of course, to help patients.