NCPA testifies at Rx drug gray market Senate hearing

July 31, 2012

At a hearing held last week about the prescription drug gray market, John Coster, PhD, RPh, senior vice president of government affairs, National Community Pharmacists Association, testified that a balanced approach was necessary to address the prescription drug shortage problem and to protect patient care.

At a hearing held last week about the prescription drug gray market, John Coster, PhD, RPh, senior vice president of government affairs, National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), testified that a balanced approach was necessary to address the prescription drug shortage problem and to protect patient care.

The U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee conducted the hearing titled, “Short Supply Prescription Drugs: Shining a Light on the Gray Market.”

During his testimony, Coster said, “We urge Congress to not take actions that might limit the ability of pharmacies to take care of their patients. The primary and secondary wholesaler markets both play an important role in ensuring that all patients have seamless access to virtually any product that they may require.

“Having said that,” he continued, “it is unethical for pharmacists to act as a conduit for the illegitimate gray market, which is contrary to the goal of providing the best patient care at the lowest cost. Problems or questionable practices should certainly be investigated and addressed, but any solution needs to be carefully tailored so that the pharmaceutical supply chain is not unduly disrupted and patients do not suffer due to shortages that may occur.”

Coster discussed reports on how it seems “shell pharmacies” or “paper pharmacies” have been established solely for the purpose to buy medications from primary wholesalers that are in short supply and then sell them to secondary wholesalers. “No pharmacy should be in the business of acting as a conduit to facilitate the activities of an illegitimate gray market,” he said.

To help prevent or deter alleged acts of price gouging, and to alleviate drug shortages while serving patients’ needs, Coster offered the following recommendations to Congress:

  • Allow pharmacies to continue to return outdated products or products that were sent to the pharmacy in error to wholesalers or distributors;

  • Allow pharmacies to continue to sell pharmaceutical products to other pharmacies, especially in rural areas to help alleviate temporary shortages; and

  • Uniformly raise the bar for all entities in the supply chain so that they are assured that they are doing business with legitimate entities.

To view an archived webcast of the hearing, click here.