NCPA Executive Update

NCPA Executive Update delivers insights on legislative, regulatory, policy, and industry developments from NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, Pharmacist, MBA, to NCPA members and pharmacy leaders every Friday.

Exposing PBMs' Mangled-Up, Tangled-Up Knots | NCPA Executive Update | December 8, 2017

by NCPA | Dec 08, 2017

Dear Colleague,

Doug Hoey

Think of them as the Grinch that's trying to steal pharmacy.

Their actions are as cuddly as a cactus, as charming as an eel. Their actions are like a bad banana with a greasy black peel.

Yes, we're talking about PBMs — those pharmacy middlemen who are master chefs for serving three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwiches with arsenic sauce to pharmacies and the patients they serve.

Now, we know all about the Grinch-like behavior. Unfortunately, they're with us not just at Christmas, but all the year round. And we're always looking for ways to raise awareness about exactly what PBMs do — and don't do.

With that in mind, we launched a new ad campaign this week — a media advertising buy, to be specific — designed to reach and influence decision-makers in Washington.

The campaign is called "You Should Know." It includes ads in Washington-based news sources consumed regularly by federal policymakers in Congress and the agencies. Take a look at them here (member login required). The ads tell them:

  • About the middleman who's standing between them and their medicines.
  • About the middleman who's cashing in on fees on pharmacies.
  • About the middleman who controls the pharmacy benefits of more than 250 million Americans.

Those are attention-grabbing headlines, aren't they? And under the headline, we tell some of the PBM story. Given the season, it really is a Grinch kind of story.

The campaign is essentially an awareness-raising tool. We want patients (and policymakers) who see our ads to understand exactly what PBMs do — and don't do. That piece is important. PBMs have been around for over 30 years, and their business model has evolved into something quite different than and much more invasive from their early days. This new campaign will help raise awareness about their influence on the rising costs of prescriptions drugs.

By running the ads in Washington-based publications, we aim to nurture policymaker support for legislation aimed at changing the current payment model into one that is more transparent and consumer friendly. That legislation includes:

But we also need to get this message out beyond the Washington beltway. We want to get them out in your town, so your local legislators will see them and commit to working for pharmacy payment reforms at the state level, too. If you're interested in using them in your local advertising efforts, contact NCPA's Michael Rule.

We really believe "You Should Know" applies to everyone. Knowledge is power. You should know, your patients should know, and lawmakers should know. And once they really do know and understand, we think they'll fight for prescription payment transparency right along with us.

So, NCPA is going to keep fighting. After all, it's not like those PBM hearts are going to grow three times without a lot of work on our part.

Doug Hoey