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PCMA ad takes aim at community pharmacies
May 11th, 2012
WASHINGTON – The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) has taken the offensive against community pharmacies by running an advertisement that claims drug stores are overcharging patients.
PCMA, the national trade group for pharmacy benefit management (PBM) companies, launched the print ad this week in Washington, D.C., publications.
The PCMA print ad ran in Washington, D.C., publications during a lobbying drive by community pharmacists.
Titled "It's the Drugstore Lobby vs. Employers," the ad appeared the same time that more than 250 independent pharmacists were lobbying lawmakers to support legislation favorable to the community pharmacy industry, including the Pharmacy Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2011, a bill calling for more transparency in and proper operation of PBMs.
The lobbying effort was part of the National Community Pharmacists Association's annual legislative conference.
PCMA said its ad defends the rights of employers, unions and government programs to reduce what it sees as wasteful pharmacy spending.
"It's the drugstore lobby vs. employers in the fight to reduce prescription drug costs," read the ad, which accuses drug stores of stopping employers from promoting home delivery of 90-day scripts, forcing benefit plans to include "drugstores that overcharge" and demanding higher payments from employers and the government.
"Employers know what mega-chain Walgreens and its 'independent' drugstore surrogates want," the PCMA ad said. "And they don't like it."
According to PCMA, a recent poll of owners and human resources managers of small businesses with 100 or fewer employees found that 61% think it's a good idea to "allow employers to choose lower-cost plans that exclude the most expensive drugstores from their coverage network." Also, 88% of small businesses polled favored allowing plans "to audit drugstores that appear to be overcharging," and 79% indicated it's a good idea to "allow plans to offer discounts that encourage employees to get prescriptions by mail."
The bottom of the PCMA ad read, "It's wrong to force businesses to pay more for prescription drugs."
"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 chief executive officer Mark Merritt.
A Walgreens spokesman said he believed the drug chain is being singled out because of its recent refusal to renew its contract with Express Scripts Inc. after the PBM refused to offer reimbursement rates that Walgreens could accept.
Meanwhile, NCPA advertisements that ran during its legislative conference countered many of the claims in the PCMA advertisements.
The pharmacy group's two print ads made the case for how legislation supported by NCPA and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores would help community pharmacies reduce costs and improve health outcomes and why NCPA feels it is essential to reform the PBM industry in the wake of the merger of Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions Inc. A separate, online ad urged readers to join community pharmacists to reform PBMs.
Last October, NACDS ran a print ad against the Express Scripts-Medco merger headlined "Don't give Express Scripts and Medco a stranglehold on Americans' medicines" in the Washington Post. And the previous month, the association began airing a radio commercial in the Washington, D.C., area to rally consumers against the PBM merger. NACDS, too, set up a website, TooBigToPlayFair.com, to build opposition to the combination of the two PBMs.