Ad battle pits drugstore lobby against pharmacy benefit managers

The drugstores and PBMs — old foes — recently tussled over a letter from anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist that criticized an industry reform bill (H.R. 1971) pharmacies have backed and will push this week in meetings with lawmakers.

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The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), which is behind the lobbying effort, denied Norquist's charge that the bill would "incentivize" Medicare fraud and said the measure protects local pharmacies from "expensive and disruptive audits" by PBMs.

The group also has print and online ads running this week denouncing PBMs as "unregulated" and touting the 340,000 U.S. jobs it estimates community pharmacies provide.

Another ad voices concerns about the recent merger of two leading PBMs — Express Scripts and Medco — saying that "PBM windfall profits will soar even further" as a result and that concerns raised by "more than 80" lawmakers were ignored by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which approved the merger.

The PCMA, meanwhile, sought to frame itself as the choice for employers.

The pharmacy lobby wants to stop home delivery of 90-day refills and force insurance plans to "include drugstores that overcharge," its forthcoming ad reads. "It's the drugstore lobby versus employers in the fight to reduce prescription drug costs."