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NCPA Statement on Wal-Mart's Entry Into the Pharmacy Benefit Market
Date:1/25/2008

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Jan. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --- In a speech earlier this week, Wal-Mart Chief Executive Officer Lee Scott revealed the company was in the initial stages of offering pharmacy benefit manager services. In response Bruce Roberts, RPh, executive vice president and CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) issued the following statement:

"The PBM industry badly needs to be reformed. The current PBM business model is one that lacks transparency and has come under fire in multiple legal proceedings such as when Medco Health Solutions agreed to pay the U.S. Government $155 million in December 2006 for alleged illegal behavior involving false claims and kickbacks. That is why NCPA has been at the forefront of pushing legislative solutions at the federal and state level to empower community pharmacies with the type of business negotiations rights that would shield patients from many of the unscrupulous PBM practices.

"Wal-Mart, a true corporate behemoth and the nation's third largest pharmacy retailer, has decided to become players in the PBM industry. They will have a dramatic affect on whether positive or negative changes occur. For example, PBMs are notorious for pushing patients to use the mail order pharmacies they actually own, which is a conflict of interest that is not to the patient's benefit. Another example of questionable PBM activities is the undue influence pharmaceutical manufacturers have in getting specific, often more expensive drugs utilized even when they are not part of the prescription plan formulary. This happens because of rebates the PBMs receive when these switches are successful. The list of dubious behavior by PBMs is extensive, but the common theme seems to be a relentless quest for profits regardless of what's in the best interest of patients.

"Wal-Mart has the opportunity to provide a positive influence on the PBM marketplace. Its pockets are deep and its sheer size causes industries to take notice. It can use its market influence to re-shape the PBM industry to one that is transparent and truly seeks solutions that will benefit the patient. We have seen such examples with other PBMs such as Community CCRx, which uses a pharmacy driven model to benefit the patient, pharmacy, and plan. Wal-Mart would do well to emulate such a plan.

"Wal-Mart's track record in healthcare is not strong. Employees have questioned the healthcare benefits it provides. It has commoditized prescription medications by selling prescription medications below its cost. It has engaged in predatory pricing that has hurt small business healthcare providers. In the best interests of the consumer, NCPA challenges Wal-Mart to use their entry into the PBM marketplace to establish standards that provide transparency, exercise fiduciary responsibility on behalf of payers, and work with pharmacy to optimize the health benefits medications provide. We will be watching with great interest to see the course Wal-Mart chooses to take."

The National Community Pharmacists Association, founded in 1898, represents the nation's community pharmacists, including the owners of more than 23,000 pharmacies. The nation's independent pharmacies, independent pharmacy franchises, and independent chains dispense nearly half of the nation's retail prescription medicines. To learn more go to http://www.ncpanet.org.


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SOURCE National Community Pharmacists Association
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