Lubbock pharmacist discusses new bill, effects on drug prices

Published: Aug. 3, 2023 at 7:39 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 3, 2023 at 8:26 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Congressman Jodey Arringtons’ Better Deals, Lower Prices Act was passed by the House Committee on Ways and Means. Now, local pharmacies are speaking out about how regulating PBMs could benefit them.

“We’ve already seen several pharmacies close, not just independent pharmacies, but chain pharmacies in town,” Chris Hobart, a Lubbock pharmacist and owner of Highlands Pharmacy, said. “Our city is growing, we shouldn’t be closing, we should be opening new ones.”

Pharmacy benefit managers have been a huge talking point in recent years, especially for business owners like Hobart. Arrington introduced a bill last week to regulate these pharmaceutical “middle-men” and force them to be more transparent. Hobart stated the Better Deals, Lower Prices Act will help local pharmacies.

“It’s going to help everyone; the biggest thing it’s going to help is businesses to make business decisions, and actually see where those dollars are going,” Hobart said.

Hobart stated added costs onto drugs by pharmacy benefit managers, such administrative fees, Direct and Indirect Remuneration fees, and rebate sharing can mark up the prices and allow businesses and consumers to see those costs will, in turn, lower drug prices.

“Cause when I have to pay a real high price for drugs, I can’t charge a real low price,” Hobart said. “Having transparency on how that money’s moving around between these different vertically integrated companies, that is huge and a big big help to consumers.”

Hobart points to a Texas law from 2021, intended to regulate the industry, but he said it lacks enforcement.

“There’s a law in place that says you have the right to use whichever pharmacy you choose,” Hobart said.

It prevents those middlemen from requiring patients to use the pharmacies they own when seeking care. The law is intended to let patients get the best deal available under their health insurance plans.

“A lot of times, these people get told, ‘oh, I have to do it through mail or a program something like that,’ and Texas law says that’s not okay and Texas law does apply to majority insurance plans,” he said.

Arrington’s bill still has many steps to go through before it gets a vote, but local pharmacies are hopeful for transparency.