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What’s the story with PBMs?

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A lobbying event in Washington has triggered salvoes between two combatants: independent community pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers.

The National Community Pharmacists Association is holding its Congressional Pharmacy Fly-In advocacy drive this week, where it will also release “The PBM Story: What They Say, What They Do, and What Can Be Done About It,” offered for download from the NCPA website.

The guide is described by NCPA as “a new resource that documents for policymakers, patients and the media the discrepancy between what pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) say and the actual effect they have in driving up prescription drug prices in America.”

What’s more, The PBM Story finishes with “a prescription for curing what ails health care in America, starting with three pieces of legislation pending in Congress that would prohibit the most egregious, anti-consumer PBM practices,” NCPA said.

“We’ve created this resource to help our members tell the real story of PBMs,” according to NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey. “PBMs say they reduce drug prices and increase patient access, but the facts just don’t bear that out. This new resource sets the record straight.”

Hoey added, “This is not merely about assigning blame. It’s about finding solutions, about fixing what’s broken. That’s what community pharmacists will be sharing with members of Congress: real solutions.”

Yet the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, a PBM trade group, is firing back at what it calls the “independent drug store lobby.”

With NCPA headed to Capitol Hill, PCMA said it’s uncorking the next phase of its national campaign, dubbed DrugBenefitSolutions. The initiative spotlights how PBMs reduce prescription drug costs and improve benefits for consumers, employers, unions and public programs, according to the association.

“PBMs will save consumers, employers, unions, and government programs $654 billion over the next decade,” stated PCMA president and CEO Mark Merritt. “While independent drug stores play a vital role, their lobby’s agenda unfortunately would raise costs and undermine competition.”

For example, PCMA challenges independent pharmacies’ support of an “any willing pharmacy” policy for joining Medicare preferred networks and their efforts to squelch DIR fees and the use of maximum allowable cost (MAC) lists in Medicaid for generic drugs — all of which would end up hiking costs, the association said.

NCPA’s Congressional Pharmacy Fly-In kicks off tomorrow. Stay tuned.


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