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NCPA and several independents file amended claim against ESI-Medco

BY Michael Johnsen

 PITTSBURGH — The National Community Pharmacists Association and a number of independent pharmacy entities on Monday refiled its complaint against Express Scripts concerning its acquisition of Medco, demanding either Express Scripts be compelled to "unwind their merger" or alternatively be required to divest assets acquired from Medco. The independent pharmacy plaintiffs are also suing for the cost of the suit as well as "such other relief as the Court may deem just and proper."

In late August, U.S. District judge Cathy Bissoon had dismissed many of the claims levied against Express Scripts by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, NCPA and the other parties. The one claim not dismissed concerned Express Scripts’ new dominance in the specialty pharmacy arena. However, the ruling left the door open for the plaintiffs to amend other claims.

The amended claim alleges the Express Scripts-Medco merger impedes the purchase of retail community pharmacy services — dispensing pharmaceuticals, educating patients on side effects and counseling patients on drug interactions — in state markets. Consequently, the merger also would impede ancillary pharmacy services, such as health screenings, immunizations, nutrition counseling and medication adherence counseling that many independents provide. The suit charges that should a pharmacy benefit manager significantly reduce reimbursement rates, independent pharmacies could not reasonably find a substitute buyer for their services in any given state. "If a hypothetical monopsonist (created by a merger or agreement between the parties) of PBM purchasing pharmacy services in a given state were to reduce reimbursement rates by a small, but significant amount for a nontransitory period of time, retail community pharmacies could not reasonably sell pharmacy services to PBMs operating exclusively in other states," the amended suit reads. "Thus, such a reimbursement decrease would be profitable to the hypothetical monopsonist."

"In addition to including amended claims, the complaint also includes a specialty claim, which is virtually unchanged and which has already survived a motion to dismiss," Kevin Schweers, NCPA VP public affairs, stated in an email late Tuesday night. "NCPA and the other plaintiffs believe that this merger poses such significant competitive problems for small business community pharmacies and the patients that they serve, that [the parties] felt compelled to further pursue the litigation."

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and four independent pharmacies — Hometown Pharmacies, Klingensmith Drug, Kopp Drug and Thompson Pharmacy — that were all original filers no longer are plaintiffs in the amended suit.

"In response to the Court’s ruling in August, NACDS last night notified judge Cathy Bissoon that it is suspending at this time its participation in the lawsuit challenging the Express Scripts-Medco merger," noted Chris Krese, NACDS SVP marketing, communications and media relations, in an email to DSN. "Formally, NACDS filed a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal without Prejudice in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. With this filing, NACDS and member companies preserve their rights to file future claims," he continued. "NACDS will remain vigilant in evaluating the ramifications of the merger for patient care and for industry competitiveness, and will take any necessary actions to address them."

To read the amended complaint in its entirety, click here.


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Spreading the word

BY Rob Eder

A satisfied customer could just offer the highest return on investment of any marketing vehicle available to a retail pharmacy, according to the most recent Patient Views infographic. In all, 72% of patients say they would recommend their preferred pharmacy to their friends and family, according to an exclusive survey of nearly 800 patients conducted by AccentHealth and DSN in late July and early August. And again, grocery stores finished at the top (80%).

If you’ve been following Patient Views every day, you’d know that 73% of patients say they are very satisfied with their preferred pharmacy.

To see more Patient Views, click here.

Patient Views is a new, exclusive consumer insights feature that will be appear in every edition of DSN magazine and the daily e-newsletter DSN A.M. If you could ask 4,000 patients anything at all, what would it be? Send your questions to reder@lf.com.

How likely are you to recommend your preferred pharmacy to others?

Source: AccentHealth. To view the methodology, click here.

 

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Once again, Yoplait taps Adamari Lopez for breast cancer awareness campaign

BY Allison Cerra

MINNEAPOLIS — Yoplait has kicked off its annual Save Lids to Save Lives breast cancer awareness campaign.

The yogurt brand said that as part of its campaign, the company once again has tapped actress and breast cancer survivor Adamari Lopez to join Yoplait’s Save Lids to Save Lives Tour. The tour is making its way across the United States, stopping in U.S. cities with large Hispanic populations. The tour kicked off Sept. 6 in Miami and ends Oct. 26 in Houston. She will also visit New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Phoenix, Yoplait said.

"I’m delighted once again to team up with Yoplait to help Latina women understand the importance of their breast health and inspire others to join the fight against the disease," said Lopez, who emphasized that she was able to overcome her breast cancer diagnosis seven years ago thanks to early detection and "the tremendous support I received from my family."

"My successful struggle with breast cancer is a testament to the fact that early detection can and does save lives, and that we are all in this together — mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, neighbors, best friends," Lopez said. "These are the people who mean the most to us, and they are all at risk for breast cancer. To take care of the women in your life, you have to know more about breast health."

This is the fifth consecutive year that Yoplait and Lopez have teamed up on behalf of Save Lids to Save Lives, which benefits Susan G. Komen for the Cure. For the past 14 years, Yoplait has been a supporter of the fight against breast cancer, donating more than $34 million to the cause through all of its programs.

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