Straight Talk: Local Louisiana Pharmacists, Sec. Alex Azar Discuss Urgent Issues Facing Patients and Their Pharmacies
One day after President Trump declared in his State of the Union address the need for prescription drug pricing reforms, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar paid a visit to patients and pharmacists at Chateau Drug and Gifts in Metarie, LA to continue the conversation. Chateau Drug owners Kerry and Diane Milano, both pharmacists, hosted Sec. Azar and a small contingent of patients and pharmacists for an in-depth discussion of issues facing small business pharmacies and their patients.
Sec. Azar addressed several “hot button” issues: high drug prices, lack of choice, secret mark ups and exorbitant DIR fees charged by PBMs that ultimately undercut pharmacies and are passed on to patients as higher drug costs and insurance premiums. During his visit, Sec. Azar observed Chateau Drug pharmacists in action filling prescriptions and counseling patients, noting the degree to which independent pharmacies are the patient’s most accessible healthcare providers.
The visit, which was coordinated by the Louisiana Independent Pharmacies Association (LIPA) and NCPA, came as a result of Sec. Azar’s interest in some of the state’s proactive laws, which provide a level of patient and pharmacy protections against price gouging and retroactive fees. In 2016 Louisiana passed a law prohibiting PBMs from directly or indirectly charging or holding a pharmacist or pharmacy responsible for any claim-related fees that were not disclosed upfront or after submitted for reimbursement. According to a recent PUTT survey, most independent pharmacies pay an average of $107,302 per store in retroactive DIR fees.
Just last week AP news reported that Sec. Azar had asked Congress to pass the administration’s new prescription drug discount plan and provide it to all patients, not just those covered by government services plans like Medicare. The plan would channel the now hidden rebates on prescription drugs directly to patients, removing that money from the current grasp of the PBMs. In a separate story released on February 5th by CNBC, President Trump was quoted on the issue as saying, “It is unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place. This is wrong, unfair, and together we will stop it.”