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Nationwide Coalition Blasts ESI CEO George Paz for Slighting Community Pharmacists

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The Preserve Community Pharmacy Access NOW! (PCPAN) coalition today blasted George Paz, chief executive officer of Express Scripts, Inc. (ESI) for slighting and devaluing community pharmacists in comments made during the question and answer portion of the company's Q4 2011 Earnings Call.  On the February 23 call, Paz said, "NEXIUM is NEXIUM, LIPITOR is LIPITOR, drugs are drugs and it shouldn't matter that much [who is] counting to 30."  According to PCPAN, the comment is part of a pattern demonstrating the true feelings on the part of the pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) about pharmacists and should raise serious concerns about allowing it to merge with Medco, as it would mean lost jobs for the community pharmacy industry.

"ESI and Medco have spent the last several months trying to defend their merger against claims it would result in decreased access to local community pharmacies, but recent comments demonstrate that ESI and Medco completely devalue pharmacists and show that the claims are indeed valid," said former Congresswoman Eva M. Clayton, chairwoman of the Preserve Community Pharmacy Access NOW! (PCPAN) coalition.  "Comments like this should raise serious concerns about how a combined company with such an attitude would treat pharmacies that provide important services and employ people in our communities.  This is yet another reminder that this merger must be stopped."

ESI and Medco have tried to deny claims the merger would negatively impact smaller pharmacies, but comments from the companies' CEOs show the pharmacists have reason to be concerned.  Last December, Paz testified that he, "Can't stop certain pharmacies from going out of business," while David Snow, CEO of Medco has claimed that, "Medco's 'robots' are 'twenty-three times more accurate' than human pharmacists, in terms of errors in dispensing prescriptions."

Last July, ESI and Medco announced plans to merge in a $29 billion deal that could take effect as soon as early this year.  The controversial deal has been the target of intense scrutiny – as elected officials including attorneys general in dozens of states, pharmacy service providers, consumer advocates, patient groups and others have raised concerns about the impact of an approved merger.

Independent and community pharmacists, in particular, have expressed concern that approving the deal would combine two of the three largest PBMs in the nation – creating a mega-PBM with excessive control and concentrated market share.  They say smaller pharmacies would not have the power to negotiate with such a major player and would be forced to accept unreasonably low reimbursement rates for prescription drugs – making it hard to stay in business. 

"Nothing good can come from combining two health care giants that do not see the value in community pharmacists, and that have incentives to drive customers away from pharmacies and into their own mail-order programs," Clayton continued.  "The truth is an approved merger could have a devastating effect on health care and jobs in this country.  The merger needs to be stopped."

A full transcript of the call can be found here.

Preserve Community Pharmacy Access NOW! is a coalition of consumers, businesses and community-based pharmacists from across the country that have come together for the purpose of opposing the planned merger between Express Scripts Inc. and Medco Health Solutions Inc.  PCPAN is a project of Pharmacy Choice and Access Now.

SOURCE Preserve Community Pharmacy Access NOW!
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