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Coalition lauds call for hearing on Express Scripts-Medco deal
January 24th, 2012
WASHINGTON – A North Carolina congressman drew praise for urging a House subcommittee to hold a hearing to review the planned merger of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) Express Scripts Inc. and Medco Health Solutions Inc.
Preserve Community Pharmacy Access NOW! (PCPAN), a coalition of consumers, businesses and community pharmacists formed last fall to oppose the Express Scripts-Medco merger, applauded Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D., N.C.) for calling on Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R., Calif.), chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, to conduct a hearing to scrutinize the $29.1 billion PBM deal, which was announced in late July.
In a letter to Mack, Butterfield — a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and ranking member of the subcommittee — explained that the proposed merger, if approved, could curtail consumer access to pharmacy and other health care services.
"Given the enormity of the proposed merger and its potential to threaten fair and adequate access to health care and pharmacy services for all Americans, our subcommittee should carefully examine its true impact on consumers. For example, we should explore the claims that this merger will be able to generate savings for consumer," Butterfield stated in the letter.
"Also, community pharmacists have stated that 'this merger would further disrupt this marketplace, to the detriment of patients, true competition and lower prices.' Local pharmacists play an integral and important role in eastern North Carolina, where they are often intimately connected with the health care of their customers and my constituents," he added. "I would be troubled if this merger impacted the level of service or damaged the current system of pharmacy delivery of drug and drug care services."
PCPAN, which in November held a rally against the Express Scripts-Medco deal at the U.S. Capitol, contends that the merger would create a "mega-PBM" that would stifle competition, restrict pharmacy choice and access for consumers, and raise the cost and reduce the quality of pharmacy care and related health care services.
"I applaud Congressman Butterfield for taking steps to protect American patients and consumers by ensuring that this controversial merger is appropriately scrutinized," stated PCPAN chairwoman Eva Clayton, a former congresswoman (D., N.C.). "Approving a merger between Express Scripts and Medco that would lead to higher prices for lesser quality care would only make things harder for many Americans that continue to be in a vulnerable state as a result of the recent economic crisis. I encourage chairman Bono Mack to move forward with this request and investigate the deal as quickly as possible."
Last week, PCPAN noted that opposition to the PBM merger, which is being reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission, continues to escalate. According to the coaltion, the list of opponents includes over 40 elected officials and attorneys general in dozens of states plus pharmacy service providers, consumer advocates, patient groups and other parties.
PCPAN said the merger opponents include the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, National Community Pharmacists Association, Independent Specialty Pharmacy Coalition, Food Marketing Institute, National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices, Utah Pharmacists Association, Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency, Small Business Association, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, National Consumers League and U.S. PIRG.
"Lawmakers are hearing from countless constituents who are gravely concerned about what this merger would mean for access to health care," Clayton commented last week in lauding Rep. Ralph Hall (R., Texas) for urging the FTC to reject the merger. "It is no surprise that so many elected officials have expressed staunch opposition to it. The Federal Trade Commission should heed these concerns and put a stop to the merger."
PCPAN added that the Express Scripts-Medco merger deal has been investigated by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet as well as the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights.