The National Community Pharmacists Association, a trade group representing more than 23,000 independent pharmacies, has sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking for a review of the pending Express Scripts acquisition of WellPoints pharmacy benefits manager division.
The acquisition, according to NCPA Executive Vice President and CEO Bruce Roberts, would further consolidate the prescription-drug dispensing business and negatively affect competition and pricing. We believe Express Scripts acquisition of WellPoints PBM business will harm consumers through higher prices and reduced services, Roberts said in his letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.
If allowed, the acquisition would give the three largest PBMsCVS/Caremark, Medco and Express Scriptscontrol of roughly 80% of the prescription-coverage insurance market and allow the companies to offer reimbursement contracts to pharmacy small-business owners on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, according to the letter.
NCPA officials expressed particular concern over PBMs movement into the specialty pharmacy market through acquiring or establishing exclusive distribution contracts with specialty pharmacy manufacturers. Such arrangements have led to substantial increases in the prices of several specialty pharmaceuticals, Roberts wrote. He noted that last year Express Scripts raised the price of a childrens epilepsy drug from $1,600 to $23,000 per vial.