A radio advertisement launched by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores aims to rally consumers against the proposed merger of Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions.


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NACDS radio ad urges rejection of PBM merger

September 19th, 2011

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A radio advertisement launched by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores aims to rally consumers against the proposed merger of Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions.

NACDS said Monday that the drive-time radio ad, airing in the Washington, D.C., area, comes as Congress this week plans to hold a hearing on the Express Scripts-Medco merger. The nearly $30 billion deal would create the nation's largest pharmacy benefit manager (PBM), holding about a third of the market for prescription drug benefits.

In the NACDS radio commercial, pharmacy patients with chronic conditions voice their concerns about one large entity wielding what they see as excessive influence in the prescription drug business.

"My medication is vital. That's why the proposed Medco-Express Scripts merger has me so worried," one female patient in the NACDS radio spot says.

Then in a succession of comments, male and female patients in the ad say about the merger, "It's bad news for patients like me. ... A new $100 billion corporation... An unknown middleman controlling the majority of private pharmacy benefits... Less competition ... Less choice ... We all know what that means. Medco-Express Scripts will have unprecedented power over drug supplies, drug prices and access to medicine. ... They'll be able to tell me when, where and how to get my medicine. ... They'll be able to squeeze big profits out of patients. Medco Express Scripts... too big ... too much power... That's not healthy."

The radio spot concludes by giving listeners a phone number to call Congress to urge lawmakers to "stop the Medco-Express Scripts merger now ... brought to you by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores."

According to NACDS, the Express Scripts-Medco deal raises a number of concerns for patients, employers and health plans. Those include, the association said, reduced competition by compelling patients to accept pharmacy benefit terms that leave them with no choice and no freedom, and patients losing their choice of pharmacies by being forced to use the combined PBM's mail order service.

In addition, NACDS stated that the merger will lead to the creation of drug formularies based on rebates from drug companies instead of clinical effectiveness and patients' best interests, and pharmacies being "coerced into signing unfair and one-sided contracts that ultimately will dictate the terms of patient care."

"NACDS has utilized advertising as part of a comprehensive effort to tell the true story of pharmacies as the face of neighborhood health care and the unparalleled value of pharmacies in improving patient health and reducing costs," NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson said in a statement. "NACDS is committed to utilizing the modern tools of advocacy to present innovative solutions for advancing cost-effective and high-quality patient care, as well as to vigorously confront serious threats that jeopardize these vital principles."

Earlier this month, NACDS stressed its opposition to the Express Scripts-Medco deal by submitting comments to Congress for a hearing titled "Health Care Industry Consolidation" that was held by the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health.

"The proposed merger of Express Scripts and Medco would result in unparalleled market concentration in an already extremely limited marketplace," NACDS stated in its comments to the committee. "Express Scripts and Medco are two of the 'Big Three' PBMs that control 50% to 60% of the national overall prescription drug volume. If approved, approximately one-third of all Americans (roughly 135 million people) would rely on the new 'super PBM' to manage their prescription benefits. Certain classes of customers such as large, complex health plans would be left with only two choices for PBM services, the merged entity and the one remaining large PBM."

NACDS also this month commended the Federal Trade Commission's move for further investigation of the planned merger by issuing a "second request" with Express Scripts and Medco for information on the deal. 

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