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Nationwide Coalition Responds to Express Scripts CEO Statement: "I Can't Stop Certain Pharmacies From Going Out of Business"

WASHINGTON , Dec. 8, 2011  /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following was released today by Preserve Community Pharmacy Access NOW! (PCPAN):

Less than 24 hours after releasing a study claiming that the merger of Express Scripts Inc. (ESI) and Medco, two pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), would save consumers billions of dollars in health care costs, George Paz, ESI's chief executive officer testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights and responded to a question about the merger with, "I can't stop certain pharmacies from going out of business."

Several U.S. Senators expressed concern about the proposed merger at the hearing, including Subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl of Wisconsin who said,"It is notable that no large employer who privately expressed concerns to us wished to testify at today's hearing, often telling us that they feared retaliation from the large PBMs with whom they must do business."

Later, Kohl questioned Express Scripts' claim that the merger would drive innovation and create savings for consumers saying, "We all know that innovation is the fruit of competition and that the more competitors, the more innovation and the better the consumer is served.  You seem to be making an argument to the contrary.  Have you come up with a new concept for how capitalism works? … Would you suggest that, if you could also take over Caremark and CVS that would be the best thing for everybody?  You control the whole market.  Would you then innovate in a way that would not be possible otherwise?"

Senator Kohl went further asking Paz whether any claimed savings achieved would be directed toward pharmacies and patients with the ESI CEO acknowledging they would not.  Kohl stated, "But I heard you say just now that significantly increasing discounts over what you're getting right now is really not why you're doing this deal, and you're not nearly as certain as some people might think that this deal will result in far more discounts from your suppliers.  There are other ways in which you hope this deal will pay off."  Paz responded, "That is correct."

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut also expressed concern stating, "The question is, how will consumers be protected from overreaching and excessive profits that are at the expense of competition?"  Later he continued, "I'm very concerned about this merger simply from the standpoint of its effect on competition."

Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, a state that has seen 12 communities lose their only outpatient pharmacy in recent years expressed his concerns about the proposed merger's potential impact on rural pharmacies and the elderly.  "When elderly patients have to drive many miles in the dead of winter, or have someone drive them to pick up their drugs, I worry," Franken said to Paz. "There are currently 141 rural communities in Minnesota that have only one pharmacy.  You think this merger will help keep the rural pharmacies in business?"

"Express Scripts CEO George Paz testified that, 'patients-not-profits must come first,' but the remainder of his testimony clearly demonstrated that this proposed merger would result in the elimination of jobs and limit access to pharmacies for some of the most vulnerable citizens in underserved communities throughout the country," said former Congresswoman Eva Clayton, chairman of the Preserve Community Pharmacy Access Now (PCPAN) coalition. "Particularly now, with an unemployment rate of nearly nine percent and no relief in sight, America can ill afford the loss of more jobs and access to pharmacy care that would result from the merger of these two behemoth middlemen."

Adding to the growing number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle calling for the proposed merger to be stopped or further scrutinized, Republican Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Jerry Moran of Kansas wrote a letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Leibowitz on December 2nd asking for a "thorough and complete investigation" of the deal.

As the investigation of the proposed merger continues, lawmakers and consumers who are concerned about precious jobs and the future of health care in America should listen to Express Scripts' own admission of the economic damage that would result from their merger with Medco, and any potential savings realized would increase their profit margins and not be passed on to community pharmacies and patients.

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! (PCPAN)
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