ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Calls for federal investigations and actions to rein in pharmacy benefit managers are continuing to grow, with the influential Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate recent consolidations in the retail pharmacy market and assess whether large national pharmacy chains and health plans have acted to make this market less competitive. Wyden is chair of the Senate Finance Committee. This builds on the senator’s October request for a similar review by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services after the Bi-Mart regional chain of retail stores offering pharmacy services began closing 56 pharmacies across Oregon, Idaho and Washington, citing “increasing costs and ongoing reimbursement pressure.”
The National Community Pharmacists Association has been pushing for years for PBM investigations and reforms, says CEO B. Douglas Hoey, who is thanking Sen. Wyden for his efforts and reiterating his own request to FTC Chair Lina Khan for agency action.
“While there’s broad consensus that PBMs are causing problems for patients, small business pharmacies and taxpayers, for some reason the federal government continues to be slow to rein them in,” Hoey says. “Certainly, though, the calls to do so are getting louder and stronger as time goes on and more Scrooge-like PBM tactics are dragged into the light. They’re getting increasingly impossible for policymakers to ignore.”
NCPA is in the thick of a push to Congress to include a fix to egregious PBM direct and indirect remuneration fees in the Build Back Better Act. This effort includes a grassroots push, a digital ad campaign, and a television ad buy in the Washington, D.C. market with the goal of ending pharmacy DIR fees, which are raising costs for seniors and making it difficult for essential pharmacies to stay in business.
“There is opportunity now to provide patients and pharmacies with relief, if only Congress and the Biden administration have the will to push an end to pharmacy DIR across the finish line,” says Michele Belcher, NCPA president and owner of Grants Pass Pharmacy in Grants Pass, Ore. Grants Pass Pharmacy has been in the community since 1933 and as the last remaining independent pharmacy in the area, has been able to vaccinate thousands of patients during the pandemic. “We’re grateful to Sen. Wyden for supporting PBM reforms. If pharmacies are hurting, unfortunately, it hurts patients too. We’ll keep fighting to see this through.”