Oct 18 The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee's
antitrust subcommittee said on Tuesday it would hold a hearing
on Express Script's planned purchase of pharmacy
benefits manager Medco Health Solutions Inc .
The deal, announced in July, would combine two of the three
U.S. pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that are large enough to
manage prescription drug benefits for nationwide companies. The
merged company would control nearly one-third of the market.
The hearing will likely be in November, but no date has
been set and no witnesses have been announced, spokeswoman Lynn
The panel will look at such issues as whether after the
merger savings on the cost of drugs would be passed on to
customers, and if the merger would remove the competitive
impetus for the companies to offer services through community
pharmacies, two congressional staffers said.
"Is this the rare kind of merger where you like more
consolidation because you have more buying power?" said one of
the staffers, who was not authorized to speak on the record.
"(Or) going back to the basics, are these three PBMs -- for a
large employer -- really the only game in town?"
The deal is already being examined by the Federal Trade
Commission (FTC), which looks at some mergers to make sure they
comply with antitrust law. A group of about two dozen state
attorneys general are also looking at it.
An antitrust subcommittee at the House of Representatives
has also held hearings to discuss the deal, although
congressional hearings will have no formal effect on the legal
Community and specialty pharmacists have complained to the
FTC about the deal. One of their concerns is that Medco and
Express Scripts may push their customers to get their drugs by
mail. There have also been complaints that the PBMs unfairly
pressure doctors and patients to switch to their own in-house
Express Scripts declined to comment on the hearings.