ISPC urges FTC to investigate ESI-Medco merger

Merger would restrict access to specialty drugs for some patients, group says

WASHINGTON — The Independent Specialty Pharmacy Coalition is urging the Federal Trade Commission to look into the pending merger between pharmacy benefit managers Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions, the ISPC said Monday.

In a letter to FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz, the group asked the FTC to "comprehensively investigate" the agreement, noting that the merger would give the combined company control of 52% of the specialty pharmacy market and expressing concern that it would restrict access to specialty drugs by forcing manufacturers into exclusive distribution agreements.

"With such market clout, Express Scripts, Express Scripts has the potential to pose manufacturers with an ultimatum: 'Elect us as sole distributor or risk not being able to serve half of he U.S. or six of the top 10 employers,'" ISPC executive director Russell Gay said. "Exclusive distribution agreements have denied patients choice, often forcing them to use inferior service, threatening their health. These vulnerable consumers need and demand the high quality counseling and monitoring provided by community pharmacies."

The ISPC's latest statement follows one made at the beginning of the month, as well as a joint statement in July by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association opposing the ESI-Medco deal.

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