Combining one of the country’s largest pharmacy companies with a major insurer will expand the role of pharmacists, putting those filling prescriptions at the forefront of the fight to lower health costs, executives with CVS Health Corp. and Aetna told lawmakers Feb. 27.
The two companies defended their proposed $67.5 billion merger to lawmakers on the House’s antitrust panel as a way to reduce insurance costs for Aetna beneficiaries by pushing CVS pharmacists to offer more advice to those filling prescriptions. The executives were also careful to blame drugmakers for the rising cost of prescription medications over pharmacy middlemen.
“The way we solve this long term is we have a new model for pharmacists,” Thomas Moriarty, executive vice president of CVS Health, told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law.
The two companies would total more than $240 billion in annual sales and would be involved in selling insurance, negotiating drug prices between drugmakers and insurers, and running a major pharmacy chain, according to company data from Bloomberg Law.
Democratic lawmakers in particular have raised questions about how combining the two companies would affect the cost of drugs for those not covered by Aetna or how Aetna might steer beneficiaries to CVS’s MinuteClinics over emergency rooms. The concern is the combined company would violate antitrust laws by using its pharmacy benefit management services to give Aetna an advantage over its competition.
Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), head of the subcommittee, appeared to favor the merger, pointing out it’s considered a vertical merger, where companies on different sides of the supply chain combine, and not a horizontal merger, where the companies have the same customers.
CVS is working with the Justice Department and expects to complete the merger later this year, Carolyn Castel, a spokeswoman for CVS Health, told Bloomberg Law recently.
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