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.

Does Fake News Spread Faster Than Real News? | NCPA Executive Update | March 16, 2018

by NCPA | Mar 16, 2018

Dear Colleague,

Doug Hoey

There is an old saying that bad news travels fast. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that the travel of "fake news" might even be faster.

MIT Researchers looked at 126,000 stories between 2006-2016 — before the term "fake news" became popularized. They found that "fake news" spread six times faster than the truth. Not only did fake news spread faster, it also went "deeper and more broadly than the truth." The study was reported last week in Science, a journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Pharmacy has its share of fake news, and as the MIT study found, it tends to travel fast. That's one important service NCPA provides—we don't lead our members astray with fake or sensational news. There are too many real issues to deal with for pharmacists to waste energy and emotion on bogus reports spread by social media.

There was plenty of real news that was good this week and that news deserves to travel fast. For one, during a special legislative session Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law the Arkansas Pharmacy Benefits Manager Licensure Act which requires licensure of any PBM that services any insurance plans that are not self-funded by employers.

The act puts PBMs under the oversight of the Arkansas Insurance Department, which will promulgate regulations that will address licensed PBMs' compensation programs to ensure their reimbursement rates are fair and reasonable. Licensing of PBMs will commence on Sept. 1, and licensed pharmacists will see new regulations concerning "market conduct practices" and reports that must be filed with the department.

This is great news for the pharmacists and citizens of Arkansas, and the legislation will become the new benchmark for many other states. As I wrote last month ("Seeing Is Believing!"), for many years Arkansas has been a standout pharmacy state because of its active state association, engaged pharmacist members, and political activity that has cultivated relationships with local legislators. These relationships trump fake news. Those are ingredients for success for other states as well. Mix in business life-or-death urgency caused by Arkansas' biggest insurer implementing outrageous cuts to pharmacy reimbursements by the insurer's PBM, CVS/Caremark, at the start of the year and you have the recipe for change.

Not to say that fake news wasn't involved. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, sometimes weighs in on legislation in support of PBM positions. Norquist became influential in part for his "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" that was signed in 2012 by 95 percent of Republicans in Congress. He emailed Arkansas lawmakers saying this legislation would raise prices. That's what the PBM lobby always says.

They are saying the same thing in Ohio, where the state pays $3.2 billion for Medicaid prescriptions, up 20 percent over the past two years. That's $3.2 billion the state pays to the Medicaid Managed Care companies — NOT $3.2 billion paid to pharmacies for the actual prescription medicine and dispensing and management of those products. That figure is significantly south of $3.2 billion. As in Arkansas, in Ohio the state pharmacy association and independent pharmacists are leading the call for change.

Earlier this week, the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives held a press conference with other lawmakers to talk about the impact of PBMs in the state. Once again, the catalyst for change came from draconian cuts to pharmacy reimbursement in CVS/Caremark-administered Managed Medicaid prescription plans. The Columbus Post-Dispatch covered the story on its front page Wednesday and in two stories today, including an editorial that ended with:

"CVS denies the allegations of price gouging and self-dealing, asserting that a "firewall" exists between its retail pharmacy business and its pharmacy benefit manager business. That's fine, but Ohio taxpayers shouldn't have to trust. If the company wants to maintain control over $3 billion in public drug purchases, it should be willing to do so with full transparency."

The MIT study found that, on average, false information reaches 35 percent more people than true news. For pharmacy news, NCPA is your trusted source. In Arkansas and Ohio, pharmacists have made their voices heard above the noise of fake news.

Doug Hoey

P.S. Make sure your legislators aren't being misled by fake news by attending NCPA's 50th Annual Congressional Summit. Today is the hotel deadline, and rooms are filling up fast. Make sure your representative and senators know the truth.