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WASHINGTON — The battle for public opinion and legislative sway was in full swing Monday as executives from the National Community Pharmacists Association lobbied congressional leaders regarding several pieces of "pro-patient, pro-pharmacist legislation." To counter that effort, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association issued some marketing firepower of its own.
To support NCPA’s Legislative Conference in Washington May 7 to 9, the association of independent pharmacies took out advertisements in support of "pro-patient, pro-pharmacist legislation."
The first ad makes the case for how NCPA-backed legislation can empower community pharmacists to help reduce costs and improve health outcomes while supporting local jobs. According to the ad copy, community pharmacy supports 340,000 jobs all told, including some 63,000 neighborhood pharmacists. And nearly 80% of NCPA members offer free, same-day delivery to patients.
A second ad, “Why PBM Reform is Needed,” describes the heightened need for reforming pharmacy benefit managers in the wake of the Express Scripts-Medco merger. "When the merger of two of three largest pharmacy benefit managers — Express Scripts and Medco — was announced, the question was would the Federal Trade Commission rubber-stamp it? We got our answer," the ad reads. "[This] despite concerns being raised by more than 80 members of Congress and outright opposition from consumer, business and pharmacy groups."
The PCMA fired back with a public message of its own, specifically targeting Walgreens and the NCPA. "Employers know what mega-chain Walgreens and its 'independent' drug store surrogates want," the ad reads in an attempt to reframe the battle as between the retail pharmacy industry and employers.
"This agenda is promoted by local drug stores, but it raises costs for every other business in town and mostly benefits Walgreens — a $70 billion company that doesn't need the help," stated PCMA president and CEO Mark Merritt.
According to the advertisement, PCMA suggests the retail pharmacy industry is attempting to stop the redirection of pharmacy patients into a pharmacy benefit manager's own mail-order pharmacy program; is attempting to force plans to include drug stores that "overcharge"; and is demanding higher payments (relative to prescription drug costs) from the government and employers.
Responding to that ad, NCPA spokesman John Norton noted that none of the legislation supported by industry would prevent employers and plan sponsors from offering mail-order pharmacy. And the NCPA's support of H.R. 1971 would mandate that community pharmacy accept any terms applied to the entire pharmacy network.
Norton responded to the final PCMA assertion, that community pharmacy is demanding higher payments, with this: "As pharmacist Joe Lech ... testified before Congress: Drug costs are up, PBM profits are up, co-payments are up, premiums are up, while pharmacy reimbursement is down — so where is the money going?"
Over the next few days, the NCPA will be lobbying support for the following legislation:
H.R. 1971/S.1058, the Pharmacy Competition and Consumer Choice Act, to preserve patient choice of pharmacy and bring transparency to pharmacy benefit managers;
H.R. 4215, the Medicare Pharmacy Transparency and Fair Auditing Act, to clarify Medicare Part D generic drug reimbursements and prevent abusive audits of pharmacies;
H.R. 1946, the Preserving Our Hometown Independent Pharmacies Act, to allow pharmacies to negotiate contracts with PBMs; and
H.R. 1936, the Medicare Access to Diabetes Supplies Act, to protect seniors’ access to needed testing supplies and face-to-face advice at local pharmacies.