WASHINGTON — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is heading to Capitol Hill next week for its RxImpact Day event, during which it will press its case against the proposed ESI-Medco merger.
“No issues are higher on NACDS’ list of priorities than urging members of Congress to express to the Federal Trade Commission their concerns and opposition to the proposed Express Scripts and Medco merger, and advocating for legislation to regulate pharmacy benefit managers,” stated NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson.
On March 21 and 22, NACDS members, pharmacy students and faculty, and state pharmacy association representatives will travel to Washington D.C., for NACDS RxImpact Day. According to NACDS, the message of approximately 250 congressional meetings will focus on public policy issues that can either leverage the unsurpassed value of neighborhood pharmacies to advance patient care, or that could alternatively hinder the health of patients, employment and community economies alike.
Pharmacy benefit managers are pharmaceutical insurance middlemen, and NACDS has maintained that the merger of Express Scripts and Medco would create a dominant force that would be “too big to play fair.” NACDS notes that unchecked PBM practices, which would be made uncontrollably worse by the merger, jeopardize access to neighborhood pharmacies.
“In addition to consumer groups, antitrust watchdogs, employers and others, 68 members of Congress already have expressed concerns to the FTC about the proposed merger,” Anderson stated. “In the name of local access to pharmacy patient care, to jobs and to economic vitality, we anticipate increasing that number next week.”
Chains operate more than 40,000 pharmacies and employ more than 3.5 million employees, including 130,000 pharmacists. NACDS analysis of economic data shows that every $1 spent in retail stores with pharmacies creates a ripple effect of $1.81 throughout other segments of the economy. These segments include agriculture, manufacturing, construction, transportation and warehousing, information technology, real estate, educational services and more. The total economic impact of stores with pharmacies equals $1.76 trillion, or 12% of the gross domestic product.
“NACDS members have a presence, and neighborhood pharmacists live and work, in every state and in every Congressional District,” Anderson noted. “Policy-makers have very real choices to make: whether to allow neighborhood pharmacies to sustain as key employers and economic contributors and as the most accessible element of healthcare delivery, or whether to fall into the trap of inaction or damaging policies that jeopardize pharmacy viability.”
In addition to emphasizing the proposed PBM mega-merger, NACDS will urge support for the Pharmacy Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2011 (H.R. 1971 and S. 1058). The legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., would address practices of some PBMs.
The legislation would address such issues as PBMs forcing patients to use their own mail-order operations, recouping claims that already have been paid to pharmacies as a result of unfair audits, providing no appeals process for their decisions, requiring documentation that pharmacies are prohibited by law from providing and switching patients to more expensive medications, according to NACDS.
“I will tell you right now that the PBM lobby will respond as it always does, by alleging cost-savings beyond policy-makers’ wildest dreams. But the fact is that lack of transparency provides no credible information about actual savings to consumers and employers versus increased profitability for the PBMs as a result of these tactics. NACDS is calling on Congress to put a stop to the spin and to these practices and to prevent jeopardy to neighborhood economies and to neighborhood pharmacy access,” Anderson stated.