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Congress members, NCPA urge close look at WBA-Rite Aid deal

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — As Walgreens and Rite Aid prepare to present a proposed merger to regulatory authorities, members of Congress and the National Community Pharmacists Association are pleading caution. 
 
Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chairman and ranking member respectively of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, earlier this week issued the following statements in response to the announced merger between Walgreens and Rite Aid.
 
“Our Subcommittee has long been focused on competition in the health care sector,” Lee said. "In December 2011, we held a hearing to examine the competitive effects of the merger between Express Scripts and Medco, two of the largest PBMs. In 2014, we looked at competition in the contact lens market, and last month we held a hearing to discuss the mergers between four of the five largest national health insurers. Competition is essential in every part of our economy, and especially so in a market as complex and important as health care. With that in mind, we hope that the antitrust agencies will closely scrutinize the merger of Walgreens and Rite Aid, the second and third largest drug store chains."
 
“Competition in the health care industry is essential to keeping health care costs down for American consumers,” Klobuchar said. “I have fought tirelessly to promote competition in the health sector and I believe the proposed merger of two of the three largest drug store chains in the country raises serious issues. It is critical that the proposed Walgreens-Rite Aid merger is closely examined to ensure it does not increase drug prices for consumers or reduce choice for pharmacy services.”
 
And the National Community Pharmacists Association similarly called for scrutiny of the proposed deal. "This merger would create an entity with approximately 12,000 retail pharmacies. That's nearly 20 percent of the brick and mortar pharmacies in the U.S.," commented Douglas Hoey, NCPA CEO. "NCPA is evaluating the impact of the merged company on pharmacy small business owners and the patients they serve. At a minimum, regulators should closely scrutinize this merger, particularly in regions of high concentration of their pharmacies," he said. "While large chain pharmacies continue to merge to increase their negotiating leverage, independent community pharmacies continue to fill gaps in patient care in rural, urban and underserved communities."
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