Protesters gather to speak out against pharmacy benefit managers

ST. LOUIS – Dozens of protestors are making sure they were seen and heard Friday morning outside Express Scripts in north St. Louis County. 

They say pharmacy benefit managers, like Express Scripts, are manipulating drug prices, steering patients to their own mail and retail pharmacies and creating obstacles for patient access. Park Hills, Mo., resident Loretta Boesing organized the event.

“The fight will continue until we get justice, until we get protection as patients, until there’s justice for every pharmacy that’s closed due to their monopolistic practices,” Boesing said.

FOX 2 first met Boesing in 2018 after her family was forced by insurance to switch to a mail-order pharmacy. Her son’s medication was poorly packaged and damaged in the heat. The dose sent him into liver rejection, and he was lucky to survive. The experience spurred her activism.

“We need more protection. We need the FTC and our legislators to do more,” she said.

Local independent pharmacy owner Jerry Callhan took part in the protest. Since 2019, we’ve chronicled his growing criticism of pharmacy benefit managers, the impact on his patients and his business.

“People need to understand how they’re getting shafted by the PBM industry” Callahan said.

Friday’s protest had national reach. Himanshu Patel owns an independent pharmacy in Chattanooga, Tenn.

“It’s about life and death for me. It’s either come here and fight or stop working as a pharmacist and do something else,” Patel said.

Doug Hoey is CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association.

“There’s legislation that’s been passed in the house, but we need the senate to take it up. And there’s also legislation that would help with Medicare, which is a third of the business of the average pharmacy,” he said.

Missouri Democrat Lucas Kunce, who attended the protest, says he’d fight for it if elected to the U.S. Senate.

“We need to use the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, we need to use all the tools at our disposal to just enforce the monopoly laws we have, break these guys up and protect us from their predatory actions,” Kunce said.

Express Scripts gave FOX 2 the following statement:

“The health of our customers is at the center of all we do. We work relentlessly to ensure our customers can access their medications at the lowest possible cost and in the way that is most convenient for them. Our flexible pharmacy networks include pharmacies of all scales and sizes, including large chains, regional and independent pharmacies, as well as home delivery options.”

Express Scripts

“We hadn’t had something that brought us all together and united us against these corporations. That is my goal here today. This is just the start. This is only the beginning,” Boesing said.

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