WASHINGTON— Four National Community Pharmacists Association leaders joined President Trump at the White House today as he signed legislation prohibiting so-called pharmacy “gag clauses” that may result in patients being charged inflated prices for their medications. Attending were newly-installed president Bill Osborn, owner of Osborn Drugs in Miami, Okla.; NCPA board members Michele M. Belcher, owner of Grants Pass Pharmacy in Grants Pass, Ore., Hugh M. Chancy, owner of Chancy Drugs in Hahira, Ga.; and NCPA chief executive officer B. Douglas Hoey, Pharmacist. NCPA strongly advocated for these pieces of legislation and recently sent a letter to President Trump urging that he sign them into law.
The president signed S. 2553, the Know the Lowest Price Act of 2018, and S. 2554, the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act, which give community pharmacists more flexibility in informing patients they could pay less out of pocket for a prescription than by using their health insurance.
“The signing of these bills is a victory for patients, and for pharmacies worried that a PBM will retaliate against them for disclosing the most affordable health care options to patients,” said Hoey. “Everyone agrees – prescription drug prices are too high. By empowering pharmacists to act in patients’ best interest in sharing lower-cost alternatives, we are increasing patients’ ability to afford the medications they need to get healthy and stay that way.
“Today’s signing ceremony follows more than six months of hard work by many community pharmacy supporters, including Sens. Susan Collins (R, Maine) and Debbie Stabenow (D, Mich.) and Reps. Buddy Carter (R, Ga.) and Peter Welch (D, Vt.), who led legislation in the Senate and House respectively. We are grateful for their efforts and for those of the bills’ co-sponsors in keeping this issue in the public eye. We also applaud President Trump, HHS Secretary Alex Azar, and CMS Administrator Seema Verma for their support of legislation to prohibit ‘gag clauses’ and for their broader work to lower drug prices and reduce patients’ out-of-pocket costs. This is a positive first step for consumers.
“Federal law will now state that pharmacists cannot be prohibited from discussing the most affordable medication payment options with their patients or be retaliated against for doing so. We believe this will help unshackle pharmacists so they can use their expertise in conversations with patients, helping them receive the most appropriate medication at the lowest cost without fear of retribution.”
Belcher and Chancy, both of whom attended today’s signing ceremony, had recently spoken out after helping patients obtain their medication. Belcher, as quoted in a news release from Rep. Greg Walden (R, Ore.), “once received a cease and desist letter for trying to help a child with a terminal disease access his medication.” Chancy testified in September before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health about his experiences, saying that his pharmacy was issued a verbal warning by a PBM after having discussed with a patient the cost of a drug off insurance.
The new laws pertain to Medicare Part D, which will take effect in 2020, as well as ACA exchange and private insurance plans, which take effect immediately.