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House Judiciary Committee Unanimously Passes Community Pharmacy Fairness Act (HR971)

08-Nov-2007: Recognizing anti-competitive business practices of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) threatening to destroy patients' access to their hometown pharmacists, yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee passed HR 971. The Association of Community Pharmacists Congressional Network (ACP*CN) applauds Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and members of the Judiciary Committee for taking this critical first step in advancing legislation that allows pharmacists to "truly" bargain with PBMs for fairer contract terms.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee unanimously voted in favor of the bill in a stunning full committee voice vote. The next step for the bill is a House floor vote. Introduced earlier this year by Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), The Community Pharmacy Fairness Act (HR 971) would provide an exemption under the nation's anti-trust law for neighborhood pharmacists to collectively bargain with PBMs to negotiate fairer contract terms. PBMs act as middlemen between drug companies and health insurers, administering the drug benefit for private and public health plans, including Medicare D.

"The PBMs have held all the cards in the prescription drug delivery system for a very long time. PBMs offer take it or leave it contracts to pharmacies and severely under reimburse them for drugs and patient counseling," said Mike James, Vice-President, Government Affairs, ACP*CN. "This has resulted in an acute decline of independent pharmacies across the country. By passing HR 971 out of committee, the House Judiciary Committee understands the free market playing field needs to be leveled between hometown pharmacists and the monopolistic PBMs or patients will suffer," added James.

PBMs routinely engage in deceptive business practices focused on profits not patients. PBMs receive huge drug manufacturer rebates for increasing beneficiaries' utilization of higher priced brand name drugs. A recent House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report found the top PBMs who offer Medicare D plans have been enriching themselves, leading to $15 billion in cost overruns.

Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) recently introduced the companion bill to HR 971, also called the Community Pharmacy Fairness Act and ACP*CN hopes the Senate will swiftly move this bill forward as the House has done. The personal relationship between the patient and hometown pharmacist is on the verge of collapsing. By granting independent pharmacists this narrow anti-trust exemption, Congress can preserve one of the best cost containment tools in the healthcare system.

About the Association of Community Pharmacists Congressional Network (ACP*CN)

Based in Raleigh, NC, the Association of Community Pharmacists Congressional Network consists of 20,000 independent pharmacists nationwide dedicated to serving the communities in which they live. ACP*CN is dedicated to the survival and growth of the independent pharmacy owner, who often times is the only pharmacy operating in rural towns across America.

Source: PharmaLive.com

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