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Pharmacy groups hail Supreme Court’s Rutledge decision

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Ruling is extremely significant for the residents of approximately 40 other states that have enacted similar laws.

ARLINGTON, Va. – Pharmacy groups including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Thursday hailed the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision  in Rutledge, Attorney General of Arkansas v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association. The decision upholds an Arkansas law that, according to NACDS’ amicus brief, “prevents [pharmacy benefit manager] PBM contracts from reimbursing pharmacies at low rates that do not cover the costs of purchasing and dispensing expensive prescription medications, which presently results in pharmacies taking a loss for dispensed prescriptions.”

steve anderson

Steve Anderson

NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson said, “The unanimous decision that Arkansas’ statute regulating PBMs’ drug-reimbursement rates is not preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is strong and sound, and it is extremely significant for Arkansans and for the residents of approximately 40 other states that have enacted similar laws. In addition to resolving this issue of ERISA preemption, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholds a state law that is designed to help mitigate the personal and community crises that result from a lack of healthcare access, which is exacerbated when pharmacies’ doors are forced to close.

“NACDS applauds the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling and is honored to have engaged in this process through the arguments provided in our amicus brief. These arguments are substantiated by the dedicated efforts of NACDS members and their teams in communities across the nation, and this U.S. Supreme Court ruling encourages these trusted healthcare professionals and the patients they serve.”

Doug Hoey, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association, said, “This is a historic victory for independent pharmacies and their patients. And it confirms the rights of states to enact reasonable regulations in the name of fair competition and public health.”

“This is a great day for pharmacists and their patients,” said Scott J. Knoer, executive vice president and CEO of the American Pharmacists Association. “For years, PBMs have threatened the sacrosanct relationship between pharmacists and their patients and have never been forced to answer to any authority for their actions. This opinion redresses that imbalance and returns the power to protect the interests of patients to the states and other local authorities, where it belongs.”

“We’re excited to see a unanimous decision from the Court on this case _ it’s truly a best case scenario for patients, pharmacists, and pharmacies,” said Rebecca Snead, National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations executive vice president and CEO. “Now, it’s time to get to work to make sure states have appropriate PBM regulations in place, and continue to work with our members of Congress to do the same for the federal programs.”

“Today, Arkansas pharmacists join their colleagues across the country to celebrate a triumphant victory years in the making,” said Arkansas Pharmacists Association CEO John Vinson. “The Supreme Court’s ruling means that states can finally protect our patients who receive their pharmacy benefits through their employers. This win should increase drug pricing transparency, increase pharmacy access for patients, improve freedom of choice, and improve the healthcare for our citizens both during and after the pandemic.”

The PCMA, the national association representing PBMs,  said the ruling “will result in the unraveling of federal protections” under ERISA.  “As states across the country consider this outcome, we would encourage they proceed with caution and avoid any regulations around prescription drug benefits that will result in higher healthcare costs for consumers and employers.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered the opinion of the court. All other members of the court joined in the opinion, except justice Amy Coney Barrett who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion.


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