The Pharmacy Benefit Brief | April 2021


Welcome to the Pharmacy Benefit Brief. This brief is your monthly snapshot of news from America’s prescription drug supply chain including pharmacy benefit managers, independent pharmacies, and drug manufacturers.



All that Glitters is Not Gold…

It’s true, we talk a lot about the independent pharmacy lobby, but for good reason. As state legislatures across the country look to policies that can help lower prescription drug costs for patients, it’s crucial they have facts, not hearsay.

The independent pharmacy lobby knows that when they say they’re going out of business, it gets the attention of lawmakers. Nobody wants to see independent pharmacies shut down.

Quest Analytics analyzed data from the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs and found that the number of independent pharmacies increased by 449 stores between January 2020 and 2021. As you know, 2020 was a very tough year for many small businesses, but not for independent pharmacies.

To see your state’s pharmacy numbers, check out: Nationwide, More Independent Pharmacies in 2020.

A one-year trend is interesting, but a 10-year trend really tells the story. The analysis of new pharmacy store data also shows a 13% increase in overall stores in the past 10-years. That’s more than 2,645 more independent pharmacies than there were in 2011.

PBMs understand that the role independent pharmacies play is crucial for patient access to prescription drugs. It is critical that the record be set straight, so legislators are not misled by false narratives. The truth is independent pharmacies’ doors remained open in 2020, and the number of independent pharmacies has been steadily increasing for many years. With this evidence, state lawmakers can avoid enacting policies based on anecdotal misperceptions about pharmacy closure rates, especially when those policies risk increasing drug costs for patients and payors at exactly the wrong time.



COVID-19 Vaccine: A Level Playing Field…

Health care firms continue to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic. Distribution of the vaccine is in full swing, and PBMs are watching closely to help with a fair and equitable distribution process. On the podcast, The Pharmacy Benefit, Dr. Elena Rios, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA), and Dr. Sree Chaguturu, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of CVS Caremark discuss how PBMs are actively working to educate underserved populations on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine. As well, the podcast explores other ideas to improve distribution, including thoughts on reframing vaccine safety campaigns to target specific demographics and groups.

Listen to the latest edition of The Pharmacy Benefit: Achieving Widespread COVID-19 Vaccination Part 1.



Did you Know?

PBMs are hired by employers, unions, and public programs to manage pharmacy benefits.

Florida-based Newtek Business Solutions is a business development company that works with small and midsize businesses to serve IT, HR, financial, and customer service needs. Newtek is a publicly-traded company that has been in business for two decades and has more than 400 employees.

Barry Sloane, Newtek’s CEO, discusses how PBMs help his company reduce Rx costs and improve access.

See the Video here.

“The most important part of controlling drug prices is competition. Pharmacy benefit managers actually create that competition. Pharmacy benefit managers are important to our employees because they give our staff choice, convenience at an affordable price.”

Barry Sloane, CEO of Newtek’s



The Latest in Rx News

Jonathan Small, President of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs is pushing the Oklahoma legislature to avoid costly health care regulations that threatens to add layers of bureaucratic red tape. “The solution is not more state entanglement with private contracts to try to “correct” the market…” Take a look at Jonathan’s recent commentary: Don’t Try to ‘Correct” the Market with the Pharmacy ‘Fairness’

In Texas, a similar commentary recently appeared in The Galveston County Daily New. Bill Hammond, CEO of Texas Employers for Insurance Reform, writes in “Texas Legislature needs to change course on prescription drug proposals” that “market forces” are the key to allowing Texas employers to lower prescription drug costs for employees.

Often misguided health care legislation is driven by special interests. Curtis McClees, chairman of the Republican Party in Clay County, Florida, makes the case for policymakers to recognize special interest bills. Take a look at that column in the Florida Times-UnionSpecial interest pharmacies don’t need special treatment