CVS Caremark has been battered by Walgreens and Wall Street this week and Washington hasn’t exactly forgotten about the multiple state and federal investigations into the company’s business practices, either.
In response to calls from NCPA and others, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched an open, joint investigation into allegations of both patient privacy violations and anti-competitive behavior following the merger of pharmacy chain behemoth CVS and pharmacy benefit manager Caremark.
Dozens of Members of Congress are on record expressing support for the FTC investigation. Now lawmakers are pressing for solutions.
Most recently, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) questioned FTC Chairman Jonathan Leibowitz about the Commission’s progress during a June 9, 2010 Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights hearing. Senator Klobuchar highlighted consumer complaints since the 2007 CVS-Caremark merger including “difficulty accessing their drugs as a result of restrictive plans that steer them away from their local pharmacists to CVS which may be miles away in another town. In some cases patients who do not elect to fill their prescriptions through CVS Caremark’s mail order business are charged higher co-pays.”
Leibowitz said that the investigation at the FTC, in both the Competition and Consumer Protection bureaus, is ongoing. He said he has met with both community pharmacies and CVS and that the investigation is ongoing.
This follows a recent query by U.S. Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) who, in a letter, asked the agency for continued investigations into questions about patients forced into mail order, misuse of private medical information and overly aggressive auditing practices.
These instances reflect the bipartisan support in Congress for a full investigation into CVS Caremark and remedies to address a multitude of problems.
In the pharmacy industry, the case against CVS Caremark continues to gain steam as well. An attorney for one major PBM told NCPA that “Walgreens’ decision shows that community pharmacists were right all along and this puts the credibility of the community pharmacists through the ceiling.” And this week representatives of many of the major supermarket chains and mass merchants, both national and regional, were also pressing Members of Congress this week about problems related to CVS Caremark.
It’s becoming clear that CVS Caremark’s model harms consumers and overall health care. NCPA had led this fight for months; now other retailers are seeing the light.