Two Congressional bills support right of community pharmacists to negotiate with PBMs

July 15, 2011

The National Community Pharmacists Association expects U.S. legislators to get behind 2 new bills that would allow independent pharmacists to negotiate insurance contracts with pharmacy benefit managers.

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) expects U.S. legislators to get behind 2 new bills that would allow independent pharmacists to negotiate insurance contracts with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).

In late May, 2 similar bills were introduced in the House of Representatives: the Community Fairness Act of 2011 (H.R. 1839) by then-Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and the Preserving Our Hometown Independent Pharmacies Act of 2011 (H.R. 1946) by Rep. Thomas Marino (R-Pa.).

"We are expecting a large number of co-sponsors in the House. We are expecting our members to help educate members of Congress about why these bills are important," said John M. Coster, RPh, PhD, senior vice president of government affairs for NCPA.

Currently, under U.S. antitrust laws, individual providers such as pharmacists are not able to band together to collectively negotiate insurance contracts. The bills would allow a certain percentage of independent pharmacists to negotiate in each region. "The PBMs would still have the upper hand, but it would give the pharmacists some leverage," Coster said.

Legislation like this is needed to level the playing field for patients and pharmacists, and to reduce drug costs, according to Coster. "For too long, this has been a one-sided battle with the PBMs. It has become evident that there are market-based solutions that are better than what the PBMs are offering," Coster said.

For example, PBMs often argue that they are the solution to the nation's rising drug costs. "They are the ones that are driving up prescription drug costs. We [pharmacists] think we can do a much better job of dispensing generic drugs and keeping people on their medications. Independents can run circles around PBMs and chains, because patients trust us," Coster said.