Claiming the survival of their pharmacy businesses are at stake, more than 100 Oklahoma independent pharmacists rallied at the state Capitol on Tuesday to lobby against what they claim are abusive practices of low reimbursement by several large pharmacy benefit managers.
“Nearly 600 Oklahoma pharmacies are at risk of shutting down,” said Josh Sheffield, president of the Oklahoma Pharmacists Association. “The pharmacy benefit managers are not willing to negotiate fairly.”
“We’re being crushed and it’s a slow-squeeze crush,” said Greg Huenergardt, a Shattuck pharmacist.
Pharmacy benefit managers are entities that contract with insurance companies and large self-insured businesses and governmental entities to manage pharmacy claims and negotiate costs of prescription drugs purchased by employees and customers of those entities.
The Oklahoman contacted representatives of two pharmacy benefit managers who denied their companies engage in abusive practices.
“CVS Caremark has a pharmacy network that includes nearly 68,000 participating pharmacies, including national chains and the majority of independent, community-based pharmacies,” said Christine Cramer, spokeswoman for CVS Caremark. “We reimburse our participating network pharmacies at competitive rates that balance the need to fairly compensate pharmacies while providing a cost-effective benefit to our client plan.”
Likewise, Brian Henry, spokesman for Express Scripts, said his company believes it treats independent pharmacists fairly.
“For the last two decades we’ve had a very healthy relationship with independent pharmacies. We have provided fair rates. We have paid reimbursements in a timely fashion and we offer independent pharmacies as part of all of our networks,” Henry said.
Oklahoma’s independent pharmacists are pushing for House Bill 2100, which they say would place regulatory controls on pharmacy benefit managers and prohibit those managers from requiring pharmacists to dispense medication when the reimbursement rate is below the pharmacists’ invoice cost.