PUTT, PSSNY FILE JOINT MOTION TO INTERVENE IN DECEMBER 18 CVS-AETNA HEARING , CITING SERIOUS CONCERNS FOR HARM TO PATIENTS AND SMALLER COMPETITORS
WINSTON-SALEM, NC (December 14, 2018) -- Today Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency (PUTT) and the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York (PSSNY) jointly filed a motion asking U.S. District Court Richard Leon to stop CVS and Aetna from further integration while the Court determines the merger’s potentially harmful effect on consumers and smaller competitors.
“We strongly believe the Department of Justice’s decision is shortsighted,” said PUTT President Teresa Dickinson. “History has shown that when CVS acquires rivals, consumers pay more and service and quality suffer. Past acquisitions have enabled CVS to restrict consumer access and force them to use more expensive drugs. That’s why the California Commissioner of Insurance, major consumer groups such as Consumers Union, the American Antitrust Institute and the American Medical Association (AMA) - the nation’s largest group of health care providers - all stated the merger should be blocked.”
PUTT, PSSNY and numerous independent pharmacy associations have previously joined the AMA, consumers and patients groups in vigorously protesting CVS Health’s acquisition of Aetna Inc., pointing to the loss of one more choice for consumers and decreased access to their local providers as reasons to block the merger. Additionally, both organizations have addressed the dangers the merger of the nation’s largest pharmacy retailer and third-largest health insurer presents to smaller healthcare providers to maintain access to, and care of, their patients.
“Every day community pharmacists struggle to provide the best service and lowest prices to consumers, often times facing coercive and exclusionary conduct by CVS’ PBM Caremark,” said PSSNY President Debbi Barber. “Permitting this merger will almost certainly continue past precedent, with CVS finding new ways of denying consumers access to the healthcare professionals they value.”
To comply with federal requirements to complete the merger, Aetna sold its Medicare Part D business to WellCare Health Plans, Inc. What was not reported is that Wellcare, who purchased Aetna’s business at a ‘fire sale’ price, contracts with CVS Caremark to administer the Medicare Part D portion of its business. CVS Caremark is owned by CVS Health and as such, renders the point of the spin-off useless - a primary cornerstone of the argument PUTT and PSSNY are making as part of today’s filing.
“The Department of Justice (DOJ) claims the only competitive problem is in the Medicare Part D market. But even their proposed remedy is a ‘pig in a poke’ solution that won’t benefit consumers,” said David Balto, the attorney representing consumers groups who are also filing a motion to intervene in the December 18 hearing. “Spinning off a Part D business is notoriously difficult and the half-a-loaf solution is doomed to failure. Wellcare, the hand-picked acquirer of the assets, will have to more than double in size to succeed. It has failed to pull off much smaller acquisitions. DOJ’s light handed acceptance of a weak buyer at a fire sale price is contrary to sound antitrust policy and the DOJ’s actions in blocking the Aetna/Humana merger.”
PUTT and PSSNY have expressed deep concerns in the past that health care consolidation is running wild, with focus and attention on providing healthy shareholder return rather than a duty of care to patients and consumers who are already stretched thin with rising healthcare costs and concerns for affording reasonable healthcare coverage. CVS-Aetna is perhaps the highest-profile of these so-called “mega mergers”, drawing attention away from other equally-distressing healthcare mergers including Cigna-Express Scripts.
“We applaud Judge Leon for disallowing the use of his oversight role as a ‘rubber stamp’ in the process and are hopeful he will consider the opposition of tens of thousands of patients, healthcare consumers and independent healthcare providers and pharmacies,” said Ms. Dickinson. “We believe he’s right, and to simply sign off on the merger without careful review would only mean higher bills and worse service for millions of consumers.”
“We are asking the Court to stop the consolidation so that the concerns of patients, providers and consumers can be heard,” said Ms. Barber. “We believe in due process and the right of small business - but especially small businesses who provide medical care to patients and individuals - to have fair and equal access to patients, and to be able to maintain our relationships with our patients. To that end, we will continue to voice our dissent for this merger and use every tool at our disposal to be heard.”
Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency (PUTT) exists to unify, promote and preserve independent pharmacies through education and access; to monitor PBM and other industry practices which, when identified as abusive, are exposed in various manners in the interest of improving the quality, safety and cost of patient care. For more information about the negative impact of Pharmacy Benefits Management company practices on the cost and accessibility of medications, or to learn more about PUTT, visit TruthRx.org or contact Monique Whitney, (505) 480-4150.
The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York (PSSNY) has served as the society for the state’s pharmacists for more than 138 years providing advocacy and resources to pharmacists to improve patient care. To learn more about PSSNY, visit www.PSSNY.org.