Local pharmacies losing business from accidental third-party mailer

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SHAWANO, Wis. (WBAY) - At least a dozen local pharmacy across Wisconsin are scrambling after a large company recently sent an accidental letter to its customers which claims they needed to switch to big-box pharmacies if they want lower prices.

Pill bottles on a pharmacy shelf

Express Scripts is a Fortune 100 company that handles the benefits between clients and their pharmacies all across the U.S. The company is now apologizing after its erroneous letter led many of those clients to turn their backs on locally-owned pharmacies.

Sent in December to about 2,600 people, the note claims customers will pay a higher price if they don't switch to big box stores nearby, or else use Express Scripts’ own home-delivery service.

Tim Dreier’s family has owned a pharmacy in downtown Shawano for fifty years. When his longtime clients came in and said they had to switch, he knew there had been a mistake.

"It's consumed over a week of my time. Pretty much everyone that comes in here asks about it. Some still aren't aware that this is not the case,” said Dreier, who also informed pharmacists in other towns after Express Scripts admitted to the mistake.

The uncertainty hit the family hard. "I really didn't sleep much that night knowing how this would affect us, and it was serious,” said Jana Dreier.

Tim Dreier took action as soon as the transfer calls came. “One pharmacy called me with a couple transfers, and I called these people back. I said, ‘Are you transferring because of this letter?’ And they said yes."

"We don't want to lose any of our faithful customers who have been coming here for decades,” said Dreier.

Target 2 found pharmacies affected by the error all across the state. We even broke the news that the letter wasn't true to one pharmacist over the phone.

Others have been fighting to keep their customers for a week.

"What we're trying to do is be proactive and give our patients phone calls, but we don't know the number of patients or customers that have actually received the letter. We won't know until they don't come in or they call us,” said Diane Collier, owner of Erickson Pharmacy in Clintonville.

Collier wants a better, immediate response from Express Scripts. “Very frustrated,” she said. “They've basically admitted making a mistake and that they were going to give the patients phone calls to let them know. But it's a robo call. So they hang up, they don't listen to it. It needs to be handled with another letter. They had no problem sending letters out to begin with!"

Pharmacists tell us they're already losing money.

"They are going to come back, but we've lost that business for this month,” said Collier.

In a statement to Target 2, Express Scripts says it will mail a letter of apology to all clients affected.

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