Update: NCPA accuses CVS of questionable marketing practices

May 14, 2009

More than 80 community pharmacists from the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) and several patients met with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) May 13 to discuss concerns about the impact of the March 2007 CVS/Caremark merger and to urge the FTC to re-examine it.

More than 80 community pharmacists from the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) and several patients met with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) May 13 to discuss concerns about the impact of the March 2007 CVS/Caremark merger and to urge the FTC to reexamine it.

“Community pharmacists have received many complaints from patients and pharmacists about CVS Caremark’s higher prices and questionable marketing practices,” said Holly Whitcomb Henry, RPh, NCPA president.

Whitcomb and the other members of NCPA argued that despite CVS/Caremark’s pre-merger promise to be ‘agnostic as to where the consumer fills their prescription,’ the company’s mail-order and in-store sales and marketing teams tap into personal patient information and then aggressively use that information to steer them to CVS stores or Caremark mail order.”

“Community pharmacy owners appreciate the FTC taking the time to hear directly from patients bearing the brunt of this merger. In the interests of consumers and fair competition, this merger deserves a fresh look,” Henry added.

The company created by the Caremark/CVS merger operates more than 6,800 pharmacies, affects 134 million consumers, and fills or manages 1.2 billion prescriptions annually - controlling or influencing the prescription benefit of an estimated one out of three Americans.

NCPA urged the FTC to take a number of steps, including investigating allegations of “anticompetitive and deceptive conduct by CVS Caremark; requiring CVS Caremark to treat all pharmacies in a nondiscriminatory fashion; and ensuring that the company creates an ironclad barrier between CVS and Caremark so that competitively sensitive Caremark information cannot be used by its retail operations.”

“We disagree with NCPA’s mischaracterization of our business practices,” CVS said in an e-mailed statement. “The merger of CVS and Caremark is, in fact, making pharmacy health care more accessible, more effective and more affordable. Our integrated pharmacy and PBM operations provide greater choice and more convenience for patients, improve health outcomes, and lower overall health care costs for plan sponsors and participants.”