Pharmacy Freedom Fund targets PBMs

June 3, 2002

The Pharmacy Freedom Fund is raising money to fund a national class action lawsuit against pharmacy benefit managers on behalf of community pharmacy.

 

COMMUNITY PRACTICE

Pharmacy Freedom Fund targets PBMs

After taking on the powerhouse pharmaceutical industry in antitrust litigation a decade ago, the Pharmacy Freedom Fund is building a new war chest for a massive federal class action lawsuit against pharmacy benefit managers.

Letters have been sent to 18,000 independent pharmacy owners asking each of them to contribute $500 as one-time dues to fund the PFF lawsuit, said Bob Gude, founder of the Texas-based advocacy group. While he declined to say how much money has been raised so far, he told Drug Topics that the response has been better than the response 10 years ago for the discriminatory-pricing lawsuit.

"We've raised a good deal of money, and we continue to receive dozens of checks from pharmacy owners every day," Gude continued. "We will need to raise more money to pursue this to completion, but we are reasonably confident that more pharmacy owners will contribute once they know for sure that a lawsuit will be filed."

The prospective lawsuit was news to LaVarne Burton, president of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, which represents PBMs and mail service pharmacy. After learning more about the potential litigation, she commented, "Raising funds from retail pharmacy to fund a suit against PBMs is awfully suspicious because retail pharmacy has made it clear they want to eliminate PBMs or limit them to a purely administrative role. My question is, Whose benefits are served by those efforts? Certainly not consumers'."

Enough money has been donated to allow PFF to hire a few attorneys who are antitrust law experts to build a case against the PBM industry. A couple of economists have also been brought on board to assist the attorneys, Gude said. They anticipate having enough ammunition for review this fall by other attorneys who would actually litigate the case.

Gude declined to disclose the legal basis for the PFF suit until it's actually filed. "We derive no benefit from tipping our hand before it becomes necessary. However, the fact that we are using economists and antitrust experts should reveal a great deal of information about the nature of the complaint and its complexity," he said.

PBMs have long been a thorn in the side of community pharmacy. Ever dwindling reimbursements with take-it-or-leave-it contracts, out-of-date drug pricing databases; audits; and mandated mail order have all taken their toll on community pharmacies. And PBMs operate, for the most part, with little regulatory oversight. In the face of the growing power of the PBMs, the mission of PFF is to maintain the right of patients to choose their pharmacist.

Information about the PFF fund drive is posted on the Web at www.rxff.org; or phone Bob Gude at (817) 492-0731. Checks can be sent to: Pharmacy Freedom Fund, 1500 Cienegas Circle, Fort Worth, TX 76112.

Carol Ukens

 



Carol Ukens. Pharmacy Freedom Fund targets PBMs.

Drug Topics

2002;11:23.