ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Feb. 3, 2022) – National Community Pharmacists Association CEO B. Douglas Hoey, pharmacist, MBA, this week is reiterating his call to Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan and Jonathan Kanter, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, for the federal government to block UnitedHealth Group’s acquisition of data giant Change Healthcare.
UHG owns United Healthcare, a major health insurer, and Optum, a pharmacy benefit manager and mail order pharmacy. Change Healthcare is a massive technology company through which sensitive pharmacy data runs straight to pharmacy benefit managers. Hoey has been warning for months that this merger would create a massively unfair advantage in the marketplace for a company that is already dominant, and is a threat to fair competition, independent pharmacies, and patient choice.
Emphasizing the concern of NCPA members about the vertical consolidation of pharmacy benefit managers with up-stream health insurers and downstream pharmacy providers, Hoey wrote, “The proposed acquisition by UnitedHealth Group’s Optum of Change Healthcare will exponentially increase the ability of vertically integrated UHG-Optum-OptumRx to exploit competitor data to its advantage, including targeting specific patients and steering business to OptumRx.”
Change’s eRx “switch” – which is currently a neutral information collection and routing tool – would be “a gold mine of competitor information – the keys to the kingdom,” Hoey said. In the hands of a vertically integrated UHG-Optum-OptumRx, he wrote, “The trove of competitively sensitive information that Change collects every day about patients and competitors would not be protected by firewalls, which the FTC and DOJ have both acknowledged are difficult to monitor and enforce.”
Accordingly, Hoey said, NCPA “reiterates its prior call for the FTC to work with the DOJ on addressing the anticompetitive practices of PBMs, including transactions such as UHG/Optum-Change that impact markets in which both agencies have expertise, and to use its 6(b) authority to investigate PBM anticompetitive practices.”
Founded in 1898, the National Community Pharmacists Association is the voice for the community pharmacist, representing nearly 19,400 pharmacies that employ approximately 215,000 individuals nationwide. Community pharmacies are rooted in the communities where they are located and are among America’s most accessible health care providers. To learn more, visit www.ncpa.org.