Welch Unveils Legislation to Protect Local Pharmacies from Anti-Competitive Practices
RUTLAND, Vt. – At a press conference this afternoon at Rutland Pharmacy, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) unveiled two bills that will protect Vermont’s local independent pharmacies that are at risk due to anti-competitive practices by middlemen in the prescription drug market. There are 41 independent pharmacies in Vermont employing 381 full time employees.
“When Vermonters get sick, their local pharmacy is often the first place they visit for advice and care,” said Welch. “Community pharmacies are locally owned. Their pharmacists have earned the trust of customers. My legislation will level the competitive playing field to help ensure these vital small businesses remain open to serve their customers.”
Welch’s legislation tackles two significant threats to local pharmacies from behind-the-scenes “Pharmacy Benefit Managers” (PBMs) who act as middlemen in the prescription drug marketplace.
The first bill would stop the current practice of PBMs imposing retroactive fees on pharmacy drug sales long after a customer picks up a prescription at the counter.
The second bill would prohibit the current practice of PBMs excluding small independent pharmacies from joining preferred pharmacy networks that fill prescriptions for Medicare beneficiaries.
Jeff Hochberg, owner of Rutland Pharmacy, said: “We must protect patients from any financial obstacles that hinder their freedom to utilize the pharmacist of their choosing, with whom they have developed meaningful personal and professional relationships.”
Welch is a senior member of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee that has jurisdiction over prescription drug issues. He is a leading voice in Congress on bringing down the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs.