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Pharmacist coalition takes aim at PBMs
November 7th, 2011
NEW YORK – A national coalition of pharmacists and pharmacy owners has begun a public information campaign focusing on what they say are inflated prescription drug prices set by pharmacy benefit managers.
Dubbed Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency, the 600-member coalition covering 40 states said it aims to make drug prices more transparent and "protect benefit plan sponsors and enrollees from overpaying for prescription drugs."
The group noted that the proposed merger of Express Scripts Inc. and Medco Health Solutions Inc. underscores the need for greater awareness of the role of PBMs in the U.S. health care system, since the deal would end up creating the nation's largest provider of prescription drug benefits. Announced this summer, the merger would meld the No. 2 (Express Scripts) and No. 3 (Medco) PBMs into one entity with about a third of the market in terms of prescription volume.
Echoing concerns of other pharmacy industry groups, consumers and small businesses, Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency said the merger would curtail patient choice and "raise the potential for unregulated price hikes to an alarming new level."
"Pharmacists are in a unique position to compare actual prescription drug prices with the amount PBMs charge for the same life-saving medications," Dave Marley, a founding member of Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency, said in a statement. "Americans will demand swift and serious reforms when they see examples of their outrageous markups."
Besides drug price transparency, Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency are taking aim at claims by PBMs that they save consumers money on prescriptions as well as at PBMs' mandatory mail-order programs, which the coalition said limits consumers' ability to choose where to fill their prescriptions. The group reported that this summer lawmakers in New York passed a bill that bans mandatory mail order for prescription drugs and that similar legislation is being drafted in Pennsylvania.
"There is no part of the health care industry more egregious, harmful or rife with corruption than PBMs," stated antitrust lawyer David Balto, a former policy director at the Federal Trade Commission. "The fact that the profits of the major PBMs have increased by over 400% in the last five years is proof that our health care system isn't working."
The Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency initiative comes just over a week after the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), a PBM trade group, launched a multimedia campaign to highlight PBM programs and tools that it said make prescription medications safer and more affordable for more than 216 million Americans with health coverage. PCMA also noted that new research shows that PBMs will save consumers and payers almost $2 trillion in prescription drug costs, a 35% savings, over the next decade.