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Bills on the hill

In this month’s column, DSN’s editor-in-chief takes a look at what legislation the retail pharmacy industry is watching.
Nigel F. Maynard
Editorial Director
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The number of bills introduced in Congress each year varies, but the total is staggering. Between 2017 and 2019, for example, the 115th Congress introduced more than 10,000 bills. When you add the number of bills introduced in all 50 state legislatures, it becomes hard to count that high.

Without a doubt, state and federal lawmakers often introduce fluffy and (some could argue) laughable bills—like renaming a bridge, setting up an alternative currency or repealing a ban on dwarf-tossing—but every year there are some important legislative introductions, too.

Right now, there is a raft of deadly serious bills that affect the retail pharmacy industry, and their passage could be huge. At the state and federal levels, new and proposed legislation addresses issues such as pharmacy benefits management reform, pharmacists’ authority to prescribe and dispense certain medications, prescription drugs, CBD, health equity, supplements and many others.

“I’m tracking about 200 bills,” Neal Watson, member relations/government affairs director at the National Association Boards of Pharmacy, told us. “Out of all those, the top five revolve around PBM reform, pharmacy practice acts, scope of practice, prescription drugs and hormonal contraceptives.”

As we found out, interest has never been as high as it is now on PBM reform–one of the most important issues facing the industry. Legislation aims to regulate PBMs’ irregular pricing policies that our sources told us make reimbursements to pharmacies unpredictable, resulting in lower profits and, in the case of some independent pharmacies, business closures.

“We’ve never seen so much congressional interest in PBM reform,” said Anne Cassity, SVP of government affairs, National Community Pharmacy Association. “Both patients and pharmacies are energized. Much comes down to contracts and leveraging PBMs, which represent 80% of covered patients.”

Our cover story this month rounds up some of the most important legislative bills that are of concern or interest to retail pharmacy stakeholders and takes a deep dive into the potential outcomes. In our conversations, the optimism is high and the expectations are great. Hopefully, 2023 signals a shift that retail pharmacy and other interested parties have been anticipating.

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