Antitrust probe targets generic drug makers

The so-called Community Pharmacy Fairness Act (HR 971) would allow independent pharmacies to negotiate collectively with health plans, insurers, and PBMs, including plans under Medicare parts C and D.

It would cost the government $681 million over five years, according to a Congressional Budget Office study. The Federal Trade Commission opposes the bill on the basis that it would raise health care costs and that there is no assurance that it would improve quality.

The CBO study suggests that most of the cost increase over the next five years would come from an additional $540 million for the Medicare drug benefit and $115 million in lost federal tax revenue.

Drug payments to independent pharmacies would increase by 1 percent by 2010. The increased cost of drugs would increase premiums in group health insurance plans by less than 0.1 percent, with 60 percent of that increase offset by reductions in health insurance benefits.

An indirect effect would be to increase the cost of drugs for the Federal Employee Health Benefits and Medicaid programs by $26 million.

The bill would essentially treat independent pharmacies the same way that employees are treated under the National Labor Relations Act.