Friday, May 23, 2008

Maryland’s prescription for better health care

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Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law a series of bills — SB 722 ⁄ HB419, SB723 ⁄ HB343, SB724 ⁄ HB120, HB257 and HB580 — that will bring accountability, transparency and fairness into the way pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) must operate in Maryland. This is a substantial victory for both pharmacies and patients.

The PBMs, acting without government oversight as the administrators of prescription drug plans, have dictated how prescription drugs were delivered in ways that always benefited their interests. This situation has forced pharmacies and their patients to endure a great deal of inconvenience and financial discomfort.

PBMs must now register with the state, provide certain consumer disclosures and follow certain business guidelines.

The National Community Pharmacists Association congratulates the Maryland Pharmacists Association, EPIC Pharmacies and the lawmakers who sponsored the bills for their hard work. Their efforts will make Maryland a leader among states lacking oversight of PBMs.

Bruce Roberts, Alexandria, Va.

The writer is executive vice president and CEO of National Community Pharmacists Association.