43 and Counting – Express Scripts-Medco Merger Triggers More Congressional Concern

By Kevin Schweers

Three additional U.S. lawmakers have weighed in with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with questions about the proposed mega-merger of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) Express Scripts and Medco, bringing to 43 the total number of Members of Congress who to date have expressed concern.

“The new combined PBM will use their market share to push pharmacies out of their network and eventually out of business,” wrote Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.). “These pharmacies represent a life-line to health care access, not only providing much needed medications but also health monitoring services, immunizations and even private consultations with pharmacists. They are truly on the frontline of the health care delivery system in my state.”

“This merger will drive up prices for patients, as the new PBM will operate without significant competition, the only mechanism that keeps prices in check,” he added. “Given the current economic climate, higher prices and less access for patients and consumers is more bad news than the people of Wisconsin can take.”

(Separately, fellow Badger State lawmaker Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) weighed in with his own letter yesterday. Sen. Kohl leads both the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee as well as the Senate Aging Committee.)

“Consumers often rate their community pharmacists high for providing in-person advice on the side effects of medications and drug interactions,” wrote Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas). “This system works because it is accountable and accessible. This system should not be broken.”

Poe concludes with a request that the agency “ensure this merger neither takes away pharmacy access nor drives up our pharmacy costs.”

Rep. Robert Wittman (R-Va.) also weighed in, urging the FTC to closely review the merger to ensure that “the best interests of the consumer are being served.”

For these and other reasons, NCPA, leading consumer advocates and others continue to oppose this merger, which could lead to reduced competition, limit patients’ choice of pharmacy and higher prescription drug costs.

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