CVS Caremark Abuses Take No Break for H1N1 flu virus

By Douglas Hoey, RPh

The shortage of Tamiflu for children fighting the H1N1 (swine flu) virus led the drug’s manufacturer to ask pharmacists to compound the medicine until supplies improve. Rather than receiving the full, adult dose of Tamiflu, kids get the liquid version.

Compounding has long been a specialty of independent community pharmacies, and these pharmacies have stepped up to meet the demand under the current circumstances. However, we recently received a report that, incredibly, even the H1N1 flu couldn’t deter CVS Caremark’s pursuit of larger market share.

NCPA, state legislators, and the union partnership Change to Win are urging the Federal Trade Commission to reexamine the CVS Caremark merger in light of patient complaints of higher prices, questionable marketing practices and privacy concerns that have resulted from the combination of the largest pharmacy chain and largest pharmacy benefit manager (PBM).

Meanwhile, an NCPA member pharmacy reported attempting to fill a prescription for the compounded Tamiflu suspension. But when the pharmacist called CVS Caremark to obtain the prior authorization (PA) number, needed to bill the PBM, dispense the drug and help the child, a company rep said approval would require 24-72 hours. Ridiculous, of course, as timing is crucial for the medication to be effective.

So, what happened? In the words of the pharmacist, “So, the patient took it to CVS and they were able to do it, of course, without a PA. Nice.”

This week we heard that the problem continues. In the words of one community pharmacist, “We had several children that are ‘covered’ by the Federal Employee program (CVS) and were told that this compound requires prior authorization which can take from 24 to 72 hours to obtain.”

Alarming? Yes. Shocking? No. Just another day in the life of independent community pharmacies faced with unfair competition in light of the CVS Caremark merger.

1 Response to “CVS Caremark Abuses Take No Break for H1N1 flu virus”

  1. 1 T. Davis October 31, 2009 at 4:39 am

    During such a critical time, independent pharmacists in our region have assisted one another by sharing information to help educate patients & physicians, compound pediatric antiviral medications, and obtain authorizations for critical treatments. Most PBMs have responded to the need for compounded Tamiflu suspensions by speeding the Prior Authorization processes for these particular circumstances. It is a shame that Caremark/CVS has not kept the best interest in mind for the public’s health during this national emergency. Profit will never take precedence over life in an independent community pharmacy. Unfortunately, the ability to make this decision is being removed from individual towns and regions due to the unfair activities Caremark/CVS to manipulate patient’s lives.

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