David Armstrong reports in today’s Wall Street Journal that Change to Win, a member of the Prescription Access Litigation coalition, is launching campaign to challenge CVS Caremark’s [NYSE:CVS] sending of a letter to doctors of specific patients, apparently promoting Merck’s [NYSE:MRK] diabetes drug Januvia. (“Unions Say CVS Pushed Costly Drug to Doctors“)
As the article reports:
A group of labor unions is launching a campaign that accuses CVS Caremark Corp. of violating patient privacy and improperly pushing doctors to prescribe a costly prescription drug.
Change to Win, a group of unions that represents about six million workers, said CVS’s pharmacy benefits management business has been urging doctors via a letter to add Merck & Co. diabetes drug Januvia to specific patients’ treatments. The letter, obtained by the union group, said CVS identified the diabetes patients through a review of prescription-drug claims processed by its Caremark unit.
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A line at the bottom of the letter says Merck paid for the mailing. Neither Merck nor CVS would say how much Merck paid, and the drug maker also declined to say whether the mailing boosted Januvia sales…
Januvia is as much as eight times more expensive than many other diabetes treatments, according to a recent study. Some medical experts say patients may not need the drug and may respond just as well to older, cheaper treatments…
Change to Win says the Januvia letter is an example of CVS putting its interests ahead of the businesses that pay it to manage employee prescription-drug benefits. CVS became a big player in the pharmacy-benefits business when it acquired Caremark, then the nation’s second-largest PBM, for about $27 billion in 2007.
CVS, the nation’s largest retail pharmacy chain, with approximately 6,800 stores across 41 states, acquired Caremark, one the nation’s three largest Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) in March 2007. Despite concerns that a company comprised of both a pharmacy chain and a PBM (which are supposed to help control health plans’ pharmacy costs) would have untenable conflicts of interest, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved the merger). Change to Win’s campaign suggests that these concerns were not trivial.
We’ll report more on Change to Win’s campaign as we info becomes available…