The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association just launched an advertising campaign that would make Mad Men’s Don Draper and other spin doctors proud. It’s an age-old strategy: if you can’t win the fight, dodge the question and change the subject.
The PCMA is the industry trade group for pharmacy benefits managers, third party administrators of prescription drug programs. Recently, PBMs have come under fire for operating in a system that lacks transparency and driving up employers’ drug costs. Independent and chain pharmacy organizations advocate for legislation that would help reduce the cost of medication by limiting pharmacy benefits managers’ ability to mark-up prices and overcharge employers. Now, the PCMA’s advertising campaign (It’s the Drugstore Lobby vs. Employers) has baselessly turned pharmacists into the villains, accusing them of trying to “force businesses to pay more for prescription drugs.”
Benefits managers often work with PBMs to administer their company’s prescription drugs. Choosing and managing a PBM contract is frequently a difficult, confusing process which can leave employers on the wrong end of a bad deal. For benefits managers, it’s important to understand the ways in which pharmacy benefits managers can drive up prescription drug costs – and costs to your company. The misleading language the PCMA uses in its advertising campaigns is the same as the devious sales pitch the PBM representatives give to benefits managers.
Pharmacy benefits managers routinely claim their contracts are credentialed and legitimate. But at the same time, they’re unwilling to allow pharmacists and employers to communicate about how much employers are paying for a medication and how much the pharmacy receives. So what are they hiding? Often, pharmacy benefits managers mark-up the cost of the medication and bill the employer for “ingredient cost,” a fabricated term used to disguise the price increase. It’s a classic example of a middleman driving up costs and taking home the profit. And once benefits managers catch on to the standard PBM tricks, there’s not an ad campaign in the world that will save them.