New pharmacy fairness bill makes first foray in Congress

2/27/2009

WASHINGTON Reprising a pharmacy-friendly bill that failed to pass in the last session of Congress, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives is advancing legislation aimed at leveling the playing field between small-scale community pharmacy operators and big managed care companies.

Reps. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., have introduced H.R. 1204, the Community Pharmacy Fairness Act of 2009. The bill, which has attracted 32 other original co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, would allow independent pharmacies to negotiate collectively with PBMs for prescription provider contracts for plan members. The ability to negotiate with giant PBMs as a group, rather than individually, would provide independent pharmacy operators with enough clout to compete for contracts with big pharmacy chains, said advocates for the industry. It also would give them more negotiating clout with those plans, they asserted.

“Current law prevents community pharmacists from having the same leverage as large chains in negotiating the terms of their contracts with PBMs,” said Bruce Roberts, EVP and CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association. “As a result, community pharmacies are given the Hobson’s Choice of signing unfair contracts that don’t benefit patients, or lose their patients altogether. That is why we applaud Congressmen Anthony Weiner and Jerry Moran for introducing the Community Pharmacy Fairness Act of 2009, and we urge the House Judiciary Committee to take action on the bill and hope the Senate will also introduce a companion bill soon.”

NCPA has long asserted that independents have to cope with take-it-or-leave-it contracts by PBMs, with little room to bargain for better financial terms, less restrictive formularies for patients, etc. “Giant PBMs have voiced concern over allowing pharmacies to negotiate for fear of losing the PBMs’ monopoly over these small businesses that allows them to dictate terms and create windfall profits for their shareholders,” the group asserted on Friday.

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