CVS-Aetna Back in Spotlight as AT&T-Time Warner Merger Cleared

Washington, DC — With the proposed merger between AT&T and Time-Warner cleared last week by a federal judge, the Senior Care Pharmacy Coalition (SCPC) warned the pending CVS-Aetna merger is emblematic of the swift consolidation of insurance companies, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), distributors, providers and others, the result of which will be significantly less competition in the Medicare Part D marketplace, and ultimately diminished patient choice.

“The proposed CVS Health-Aetna merger is emblematic of the growing arms race to consolidate and control elderly consumers’ access to prescription drugs,” warned Alan G. Rosenbloom, President and CEO of SCPC, the only federal advocacy organization devoted exclusively to the interests of the nation’s LTC pharmacies and the patients they serve.

“We are already alarmed by the fact that three PBMs administer more than 90% of prescriptions dispensed to seniors in the nation’s long-term care facilities — and now two of these companies may soon be ancillary parts of large national health insurance companies,” Rosenbloom continued.

“This merger and acquisition activity, rapid vertical and horizontal integration and stubborn adherence to non-transparent business practices threatens the nation’s commitment to free and fair markets — and ultimately places LTC pharmacies at a competitive disadvantage,” he said.

LTC pharmacies, a distinct subset within the pharmacy community, serve a specialized population of seniors in skilled nursing centers, assisted living facilities and other residential care settings. The typical patient suffers from multiple chronic conditions, significant impairments in daily living activities, mild to moderate dementia, and takes 12-13 prescription medications daily – making drug prices and access to needed medications an essential variable in maintaining vulnerable seniors’ health and well-being.

The SCPC President and CEO said more than 60% of hospital readmissions from nursing centers involve medication issues. Effective oversight and ready access to medications as part of a patient’s clinical care are important factors for reducing hospital readmissions and associated costs.

Rosenbloom pointed to the relationship between CVS/Caremark and OmniCare in the LTC pharmacy space as another example of problematic consolidation: the PBM treats its affiliated pharmacy better than competing pharmacies, placing the non-affiliated LTC pharmacies at a competitive disadvantage — thus decreasing their market value. The CVS/Caremark-affiliated pharmacy then acquires the competitor at artificially deflated prices and patients suffer poorer service and less choice.

“We strongly urge Congress, the Department of Justice (DoJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to rigorously review a CVS-Aetna merger in the context of the broader market transformations already negatively affecting competition and choice in the LTC pharmacy sector,” Rosenbloom concluded.

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The Senior Care Pharmacy Coalition (SCPC) is the only national organization exclusively representing the interests of LTC pharmacies. Its members operate in all 50 states and serve 750,000 patients daily in skilled nursing and assisted living facilities across the country. Visit seniorcarepharmacies.org  to learn more.