WASHINGTON, D.C. — The leaders of 18 pharmacy organizations today issued the following statement following the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the first Emergency Use Authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We heartily welcome the decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize the emergency use of the first COVID-19 vaccine, following the recommendation of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC).
“This is a historic moment in the nation’s effort to end the pandemic. The pharmacy profession is ready to do its part as qualified, active participants in administering these vaccines in accordance with guidance issued by the FDA, CDC, HHS and state and local health departments, as well as increasing access for the American public to these important disease prevention tools.
“We are confident that FDA has taken extraordinary care to ensure that the vaccine is safe and effective. The American people should have great confidence in the vaccine. The vast majority of pharmacists have indicated in recent surveys that they intend to be vaccinated themselves and plan to recommend the vaccine to their patients. More than 360,000 pharmacists, student pharmacists and pharmacy technicians nationwide are trained to administer vaccines.
“Pharmacists are the most accessible health care providers in the nation, with 90% of Americans living within 5 miles of pharmacy. Across the nation they stand ready, in all patient care settings, to administer the vaccine and counsel patients through this critical moment in our nation’s history. As trusted health professionals dedicated to serving the health care needs of our communities, we stand ready to serve.”
Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy
Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education
American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
American College of Apothecaries
American College of Clinical Pharmacy
American Pharmacists Association
American Society of Consultant Pharmacists
American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists
Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association
National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations
National Association of Boards of Pharmacy
National Association of Chain Drug Stores
National Association of Specialty Pharmacy
National Community Pharmacists Association
National Pharmaceutical Association
Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists
Pharmacy Quality Alliance
“This is wonderful news for our patients, pharmacists, and pharmacies. It is great to have a unanimous decision from the Supreme Court validating rights for states to regulate PBMs. This is a big win for pharmacy and we need to work with states to implement laws which will improve our ability to continue to care for our patients,” said Susie Bartlemay, Executive Vice-President of the American College of Apothecaries, American College of Veterinary Pharmacists, and the American College of Apothecaries Research and Education Foundation.
The unanimous (8 to 0) decision ruled in favor of the interests of patients and community pharmacies, who have been fighting for years to regulate pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), the controversial middlemen that manage prescription drug benefits for health insurers, Medicare Part D drug plans, and large employers. With this ruling, states will have greater authority to protect their local businesses and their patients from PBM overreach.
“This is a historic victory for independent pharmacies and their patients. And it confirms the rights of states to enact reasonable regulations in the name of fair competition and public health,” saidNational Community Pharmacists Association CEO B. Douglas Hoey, pharmacist, MBA.
“This is a great day for pharmacists and their patients,” said Scott J. Knoer, executive vice president and CEO of the American Pharmacists Association. “For years, PBMs have threatened the sacrosanct relationship between pharmacists and their patients and have never been forced to answer to any authority for their actions. This opinion redresses that imbalance and returns the power to protect the interests of patients to the states and other local authorities, where it belongs.”
“We’re excited to see a unanimous decision from the Court on this case – it’s truly a best case scenario for patients, pharmacists, and pharmacies,” said Rebecca Snead, RPh, NASPA executive vice president and CEO. “Now, it’s time to get to work to make sure states have appropriate PBM regulations in place, and continue to work with our members of Congress to do the same for the federal programs.”
“Today, Arkansas pharmacists join their colleagues across the country to celebrate a triumphant victory years in the making,” said Arkansas Pharmacists Association CEO John Vinson. “The Supreme Court’s ruling means that states can finally protect our patients who receive their pharmacy benefits through their employers. This win should increase drug pricing transparency, increase pharmacy access for patients, improve freedom of choice, and improve the healthcare for our citizens both during and after the pandemic.”
At issue was the extent to which the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), which regulates private employee benefit plans, preempts the states from regulating the amount that PBMs pay pharmacies to dispense prescription drugs that are covered by an employer-sponsored health plan.
In 2015, Arkansas passed a law prohibiting PBMs from reimbursing local pharmacies at a lower rate than what the pharmacies pay to fill prescriptions. Before the bill was enacted, PBMs were found to reimburse pharmacies at less than a pharmacy’s cost to acquire a drug. This and other pressures have contributed to more than 16 percent of rural independent pharmacies across the country closing their doors in recent years. In Arkansas, nearly 13 percent of the independent pharmacies closed between 2006 and 2014 alone. The PBM lobby, PCMA, challenged the law in court, which is when the pharmacy groups joined efforts to ensure the 2015 law stands. NCPA, APA, APhA, NASPA, and all state pharmacy associations jointly commissioned an amicus brief to support Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s appeal to allow the implementation of the 2015 legislation that prohibited PBMs from paying pharmacies below cost and allowed pharmacies to refuse to dispense below cost prescriptions.
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