Pharmacists Blast Medco for Shunning Investigators

AUGUST 01, 2005
Ken Rankin

Medco Health Solutions, one of the nation's largest pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), has refused to comply with a federal subpoena from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) seeking information on the company's business practices.

The department's investigation into suspected antikickback law violations by the company parallels a separate US Justice Department lawsuit alleging that Medco defrauded the government. Medco has refused to provide the information called for in the subpoena unless HHS agrees not to share it with the Justice Department.

Critics of the PBMs are calling Medco's reluctance to provide information to the OIG part of a larger pattern of secretive behavior by PBMs.

"Medco's refusal to cooperate with the OIG is just another example of how the PBM industry chooses to operate behind a veil of secrecy—secrecy that drives up the cost and lowers the quality of health care for millions of patients across the nation," said Bruce Roberts, RPh, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).

NCPA is citing Medco's actions as further evidence of the need for the "Community Pharmacy Fairness Act" —legislation recently introduced in the Congress by Reps Jerry Moran (R, Kan) and Anthony Weiner (D, NY) to allow independent community pharmacists to collectively negotiate the terms of their third-party (PBM) contracts, without fear of violating antitrust statutes.

Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.

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