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Pharmacists accuse CVS Caremark of unfair competition


Alexandria, Va. A pharmacists association asked trade regulators on Wednesday to investigate CVS Caremark, accusing the drug retailer of waging unfair competition.

The National Community Pharmacists Association alleged that CVS used patient information and co-payment manipulation to steer patients to its pharmacies and drug mail-order businesses. The association met with the Federal Trade Commission and also has talked to members of Congress.

"We believe CVS Caremark is taking away fundamental rights of patients to choose their own pharmacy, and that message is getting a very receptive ear on Capitol Hill," said John Coster, the association's senior VP government affairs.

CVS responded in an e-mailed statement that the association has mischaracterized its business practices.

Association spokesman Kevin Schweers said CVS uses the possibility of higher co-payments to push customers to switch from community drug stores to a CVS store or its mail-order business.

The association, which represents mostly independent pharmacies, provided several examples of letters it said were sent from CVS to benefits-plan customers telling them that prescriptions will either no longer be filled at another store or they will be subjected to higher co-payments.

The letters also mention potential savings on 90-day prescriptions filled through either a CVS pharmacy or its mail-order business.

There has been no comment from the FTC.

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