Alliance Fights $29 Billion Medco Takeover

Article excerpt

An alliance of drugstores and community pharmacists filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday in Pittsburgh to stop Express Scripts Inc.'s $29.1 billion takeover of Medco Health Solutions Inc.

The litigants said they fear the deal would create a giant pharmacy-benefits manager with too much leverage and market share.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association, both of Alexandria, Va., said a combination of two of the biggest pharmacy-benefits managers would have negative consequences for patients and retail community pharmacists.

They warned that the deal could reduce competition and service for patients and raise mail-order drug prices, among other consequences.

Harry Davis, who operates Brighton Pharmacy in New Brighton, Beaver County, said yesterday that he "can almost guarantee" a combined Express Scripts and Medco would cut prescription reimbursements for drugstores such as his. Brighton Pharmacy has 35 employees and fills 115,000 prescriptions a year for 30,000 patients.

Davis said a combined Express Scripts and Medco would control 56 percent of prescriptions filled at his business, founded in 1989.

He said delivery and individual attention to customers could suffer. He often answers customers' health questions or counsels them about prescription medications and over-the-counter remedies.

If staff cuts are needed, "I may not have the time for that, because now I don't have another pharmacist to fill prescriptions while I'm talking with a customer," Davis said.

The takeover by Express Scripts of Medco "would create a huge, new middleman that stands between patients and their pharmacies, between patients and the medications they need," said Don Bell, a senior vice president for the chain drugstores association. …