Unions Challenge CVS on Drug Recommendation

November 17, 2008
Special Feature

A group of unions is accusing the pharmacy benefits management (PBM) unit of CVS Caremark of trying to push doctors into prescribing a costly drug for diabetes patients.

A group of unions is accusing the pharmacy benefits management (PBM) unit of CVS Caremark of trying to push doctors into prescribing a costly drug for diabetes patients. Change to Win, the union group, claims that CVS sent letters to doctors promoting Merck’s diabetes drug Januvia for specific patients who had been identified through a review of prescription drug claims processed by CVS’s Caremark unit. Januvia can cost much more than many alternative diabetes treatments.

Change to Win claims that the action puts the interests of CVS before those of consumers and the businesses that pay the company to manage their pharmacy benefits. Although companies hire PBMs to help keep costs low, some PBMs have recently been accused of pushing drugs that offer them generous rebates and high profit margins. The union group wants full disclosure of any rebates and a limit on how much patient information a PBM can divulge. The group also wants any switching of drugs to result in lower drug costs for the consumer.

Change to Win claims that it has targeted CVS because the company is a major player in the PBM arena. CVS, on the other hand, asserts that the campaign is the result of an ongoing dispute over workplace rules. Change to Win’s membership includes unions that represent several thousand CVS workers.