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Pharmacy Benefit Managers Take to Political Airwaves

“Special interests, drugstore lobbyists,” he said, are standing in the way by “protecting an industry group from competition instead of getting the real goal accomplished — saving billions for consumers and improving quality of care.”

Merritt added that states such as New York and New Jersey already are working to implement PBM programs to save tax dollars, and he said similar programs at the federal level could move quickly, especially after the November elections.

“The pharmacy world has been turned on its head in the last decade,” he said.

But Coster said PBMs’ perspective is upside down.

“They think we help them. In fact, we’re the providers. We’re the ones that provide patient care,” said Coster, whose group is pushing for legislation that would force PBMs to disclose more information about their business and profits, particularly when administering government programs.

“The government doesn’t know a lot about what these PBMs are doing, how much money they’re taking in,” he said. “The proposed merger has really sensitized folks on the Hill. The onion of the PBM has been slowly peeling away, and what’s inside is rotten.”

Chris Krese, a spokesman for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, said his group not only has come out against the merger, including operating a website called TooBigToPlayFair.com, but like Coster’s group also is lobbying for legislation that would regulate PBMs.

“The volume is very, very high and very, very passionate” in opposition to the merger, Krese said. “We believe legislation to regulate PBMs is very important for the advancement of good patient care.”

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