NCPA Surveys Community Pharmacies About Patient Prescription Transfers to Competitors

September 21, 2020

Community pharmacy owner/manager respondents reported that patients’ prescriptions were transferred without permission.

Results from a recent NCPA survey indicated that patients’ prescriptions are being transferred from independent pharmacies to chain stores without patients’ permission.1

Almost 80% of community pharmacists who responded to the survey said they’ve lost patients because of unfair “patient steering” in the past 6 months — and CVS Health is most often the culprit, NCPA said in the news release.2

For the survey, NCPA collected responses from 412 pharmacy owners and managers between September 8-11, 2020.

“Many members have been telling us that their patients are being transferred to larger competitors, and in many cases the patients don’t know when, why, or how. This survey sheds some light on the problem, and the results are very disturbing,” said B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, CEO of NCPA.

According to the survey, 79% of community pharmacists reported that their patients’ prescriptions were transferred to another pharmacy in the last 6 months without their patients’ knowledge or consent. The median average of patients lost was 12.

The survey reported that 77.7% (248) of respondents had their customers’ prescriptions transferred to CVS.

“Patients are sometimes transferred from one pharmacy to another, but they must be notified, and they must consent to the move. That’s not happening in many cases…and CVS Health is most often the place where community pharmacy patients end up,” NCPA said.

CVS Health has denied the allegations of patient steering. In a response to the survey, Michael DeAngelis, senior director of corporate communications, told Drug Topics® that “accusations that we transferred patients’ prescriptions to our own pharmacies without their knowledge or consent are simply not true. Our pharmacies only initiate prescription transfers when requested by a patient.”

CVS Caremark members have access to “our broad network of more than 60,000 pharmacies, including most independent pharmacies and chain pharmacies, in addition to CVS Pharmacy,” DeAngelis added.

More than 40% of the pharmacies in CVS Health’s network are independently owned, according to DeAngelis. “If a plan sponsor chooses a particular network design that includes specific pharmacies, their members are notified in advance.”

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) also responded to the survey’s findings. “Despite the rhetoric from independent pharmacies, the facts are clear. Health plan sponsors determine the benefit design that best fits the health needs of their patient populations. Payers must make coverage decisions that balance affordably, access, and convenience,” Greg Lopes, assistant vice president of strategic communications for PCMA, told Drug Topics®.

However, Hoey noted that the pharmacy sector is “very competitive, and most big chains have aggressive marketing schemes aimed at taking patients from rivals.”

Because CVS also has its own insurance companies, Aetna and Caremark, the pharmacy chain has access to information on patients, including when and where they receive prescriptions, Hoey explained.

State and federal regulators should be concerned by the survey findings, according to Hoey.

“Competition should allow the consumer to have freedom to choose. That’s especially important when it comes to health care choices. When the largest players tilt the playing field, patients are robbed of choice. And small businesses, the backbone of the US economy, are forced to close,” Hoey said.

References:

1. Report for Patient Steering Survey. NCPA; September 16, 2020. Accessed September 21, 2020. https://ncpa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/9.16.2020-NCPAPatientSteeringSurveyResults.pdf

2. Patient steering a massive problem for community pharmacists, new survey shows. News release. NCPA; September 17, 2020. Accessed September 21, 2020. https://ncpa.org/newsroom/news-releases/2020/09/17/patient-steering-massive-problem-community-pharmacists-new-survey