Anticipated savings and benefits to consumers may not result.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (December 4, 2017)—In a statement, National Community Pharmacists Association CEO B. Douglas Hoey, Pharmacist, MBA, says the announced merger of CVS Health and Aetna may not create its purported cost savings, and that there may be detrimental effects on consumers and community pharmacy providers:

“For all of the talk about cost savings, prescription drug costs have clearly continued to rise despite previous vertical mergers like UnitedHealth’s 2015 acquisition of Catamaran. Moreover, the anticipated efficiencies CVS and Aetna tout may benefit the merged company more than the consumer, who is likelier to be driven to use health care resources chosen by the health plan rather than those of his or her own choosing.

“As regulators review whether or not to approve this acquisition and evaluate the potential impact on consumers, previous and current behavior should be a point of reference. Cases in point:

  • In 2015, Aetna was assessed a $1 million civil monetary penalty by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for significant disruption to patients and community pharmacists that occurred as a result of the company’s inaccurate representation of “in-network” pharmacies in some plans.
  • CVS/Caremark is already the pharmacy benefits manager for Aetna, and independent pharmacies have been foreclosed from Aetna’s Part D preferred networks for the last two years. Consolidation of the two companies will only strengthen their ability to steer patients to CVS/Aetna-owned retail or mail order pharmacies.

“We believe that one possible driver for this merger is the increased scrutiny on the role pharmacy benefit managers play and the growing evidence that they contribute to the higher costs of prescription drugs. The main source of purported cost savings touted by CVS and Aetna may be in containing the costs PBMs add to prescriptions.

“Control and manipulation of patient data is also a concern. Consumers should have the freedom to choose the providers that produce the highest quality health outcomes and cost-effectiveness, rather than being coerced into using certain physicians or pharmacies.

“In short, bigger is not always better. A close examination of whether this acquisition will lead to higher drug prices and fewer quality and convenience options for consumers is warranted.”

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