It had been a particularly rough start to the summer in the pharmacy. Within a period of a couple of weeks, I learned that a Medicare Part D plan that was essentially built and developed by the independent pharmacy community had been sold to CVS/Caremark. Shortly after that came news and ads manufactured by the PBM lobby that trashed independent pharmacists. They were also going after state Medicaid drug programs in Florida and Kentucky. Next came the news that Express Scripts wanted to buy Medco.
As I drove with my family to the beach, images of the PBM ads filled my head. Pulling into Kitty Hawk, N.C., I had a realization: PBMs are engaged in a full-fledged public relations and marketing campaign that both trashes independent pharmacists and paints an inaccurate picture of their industry. If we independents have any chance of survival, we need to get into the game ourselves and teach the public what they don’t know about PBMs.
Unfortunately, as pharmacists, we don’t know a thing about PR or public information campaigns. Fate intervened while on vacation at the beach. As I was leaving a church, I struck up a conversation with another vacationer who happened to own a PR firm in New York. I told him about independents’ woes. He told me to get others involved and start an organization to counter the twisted tales told by PBMs—both in public and behind closed doors.
When I got home from the beach I posted the following question on a pharmacy list serve: “What do you all think about going after the PBMs in the press?” Two weeks and 153 comments later, we hired a public relations firm and Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency was born.
Now 600 members strong with representation in 40 different states, our group has spent the last two months planning our own campaign. We want reporters, human resources managers, politicians, corporate leaders and all Americans to understand terms like “spread pricing.” We want them to know the downside of a mandatory mail order plans. Most of all, we want them to know the real costs of prescription drugs.
We created a website, TruthRx.org, as an information hub and place to network with likeminded pharmacists. We devised a media strategy that presents our members as industry experts available for commentary and analysis. Our boldest effort is collecting and cataloguing specific examples of how unethical and misleading PBM policies unfold in America. Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency believes the best way to bring change and accountability to the PBM industry is to share these individual stories. We will use this blog as a venue to tell these stories and also to highlight news and views on relevant issues.
And today, we take our campaign to the press. We will not stop until the truth about PBMs is reported in the media. We don’t know how long it will take, but we know we will get there. We hope you will join us by becoming a member and sharing your own PBM stories. Contact us to learn how.