A local lawmaker is sponsoring legislation that would prohibit “gag clauses” in pharmacy benefit manager contracts.
The “gag clauses” prohibit pharmacists from telling consumers about cheaper ways to purchase prescriptions or more effective alternatives.
Rep. Teresa Tanzi introduced the bill two months ago in an effort to help save customers money as well as protect the integrity of the relationship between pharmacists and patients.
“No corporation looking to maximize its profits should be able to tell a pharmacist they can’t tell their patients about information they know will help them save money or feel better. Gag clauses are damaging to the pharmacist-patient relationship and are a corporate money grab that hurts consumers,” Tanzi said. “My legislation will make them illegal so pharmacists will not be muzzled and consumers will be given the knowledge they need to save money.”
In current state law, a pharmacy benefit manager, who acts as a middle man for insurance companies, can limit what a pharmacist can say to consumers regarding co-pays.
“It is really hard to look at a patient who is struggling to pay for their prescription and go ‘Oh yeah, this is $20 and I can’t do anything about it,'” Elena Beauregard said as she testified in support of the legislation.
Tanzi said not only do these clauses hurt relationships between the pharmacist and the patient, but it also hurts small independent pharmacies because the profit goes back to the middle man.
Only one person signed up to testify against the bill, saying the examples brought up do not speak for everyone.
“I just want to point out to you that my client, Express Script, does not do any of those things, and many PBMs do not,” Elizabeth Suever said. “So I just want you to be mindful that this is not something that is happening at all PBMs.”
The Rhode Island Pharmacists Association released a statement showing support for the legislation:
“As a pharmacist practicing in Rhode Island for 20 years, I was shocked when I learned that my colleagues in community pharmacies are not able to help patients find the lowest cost option for their prescriptions if they enter into a contract with a PBM. The practice of facilitating all aspects of a patient’s care, including affordable medications, has been part of our profession for generations. PBM contracts should not be able to erode the trust and open communication between a patient and a pharmacist.”
Tanzi said there is no clear timeline for the legislation moving forward since this is the beginning of the process.