WV Pharmacist Shares Experience Testifying Before FTC

WV pharmacist, Heidi Romero, PharmD, of Griffith & Feil Drug in Kenova, West Virginia (shown here accepting her 2019 Excellence In Innovation Award), represented WV Pharmacy back in February before the Federal Trade Commission. She urged the FTC to launch a study to investigate pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) predatory and harmful practices to pharmacies and patients alike. Below is her accounting of her experience:

Recently the Federal Trade Commission opened the topic of a proposed review of the harmful practices of the PBMs to public comment. Pharmacists across the country took the time to share their personal stories relating to the damages done to their pharmacy practices from PBM imposed DIR fees, “take it or leave it” contracts, preferred networks, reimbursements below cost, and punitive audits. Those persons providing comments also had the opportunity to note on the written comments form that they would like to present their experiences directly to the FTC Committee on February 17, 2021.

As a pharmacist working in a rural, independent pharmacy, I felt compelled to share my own experiences with respect to the PBMs. I provided written testimony citing numerous examples of how the PBMs have directly and indirectly caused a negative impact on my ability to care for my patients. I also made the decision to register as a public speaker and provide a personal testimony before the Commission prior to their vote on whether to require a study reviewing the practices of the PBMs that limit competition.

Having never spoken in such a public forum, particularly one with such significant implications, I was nervous but determined to make the most of my opportunity while being respectful of the brief two-minute time limit allotted to me. I was one of nearly 30 speakers who addressed the Commission publicly via a Zoom session lasting just over an hour. Listening to the various speakers, I was humbled by the diversity of backgrounds, with pharmacists and other medical professionals representing a wide range of practices including HIV clinics, specialty pharmacies, 340B clinics, franchises, and independents.

While the recent FTC hearing ultimately did not result in a vote in favor of investigating the PBM practices at this time, the fervent testimony and comments provided demonstrated the broad impact of the PBMs on patient care and access to pharmacy services. The tie vote from the Commission did however leave the opportunity open for a more in-depth review of PBMs in the future. Rather than feeling disheartened by the outcome, I am proud of the members of our profession who took a stand for their practices and their patients, whether in written form or personal testimony. I am highly encouraged that our profession is becoming more united in representing pharmacy as a whole and hope that other pharmacists in West Virginia take advantage of future opportunities to make their voices heard.

If you wish to be on WVPA’s Legislative Committee, email us at WVPharmacists@gmail.com.