SCOTUS sides with pharmacists on prescription benefits

SCOTUS hears Arkansas case regulating PBMs

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - The United States Supreme Court on Thursday, Dec. 10, sided with pharmacists regarding the Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) regulation.

Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) centered around Act 900. Arkansas passed the law in 2015 prohibiting PBMs from reimbursing local pharmacies at a lower rate than they pay to fill prescriptions.

PBM’s are the middlemen between pharmacies and insurance companies.

The large organizations negotiate prices pharmacists pay, and in recent years, the amounts reimbursed to pharmacies have dropped.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she believes this has left independently owned and rural pharmacies struggling, with more than 16 percent of rural pharmacies closing in recent years.

Rian Snell is a pharmacist with Hilltop Market Pharmacy.

He says the ruling is a win not only for local pharmacies, but it opens up more freedoms for patients when it comes to filling prescriptions.

“Patients should be able to go where they want, they’re not forced to use mail-order pharmacies out of state, they’re not forced to use one specific pharmacy whether they want to or not,” said Snell. “They will be able to have access to their pharmacy, their drugs, when they want them and where they want them.”

In its unanimous decision, the nation’s highest court ruled that Act 900 “amounts to cost regulation” and overturned the Eighth Circuit decision.

This is the first case the Supreme Court has ruled on involving PBMs.

Snell said this unanimous decision means the Supreme Court heard the infringement on patient rights, and saw how unfair the model of business was for small pharmacies not only in Arkansas, but across the country.

“It’s definitely a monumental change. I think it’s going to show the PBMs that patients do matter first and foremost, that they are number one. Not the profits of large companies like PBMs, that’s not number one. It’s about patient care, it’s about the people on the front lines,” said Snell.

Following Thursday’s decision, Rutledge issued the following statement:

“This is an important unanimous win for not only locally owned pharmacies that have experienced financial hardships at the hands of pharmacy benefit managers, but more importantly, this is a win for all Arkansans and Americans to have access to affordable health care. I will always protect Arkansans and small businesses from unfair practices and fight to lower the costs of prescription drugs.
Leslie Rutledge, Arkansas Attorney General

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