New Alabama law gives freedom to pharmacists to tell customers about cheaper drugs

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Montgomery, Ala. (WIAT) — For years, pharmacists were not allowed to tell customers about cheaper drug prices.

Now, a new law in Alabama has reversed that policy, allowing the pharmacists to let their customers know about cheaper medications that are available.

This law will also make pharmacy benefit managers register with the Alabama Department of Insurance, outlaw gag clauses for pharmacists and forbid clawback fees. Essentially, the law will end the contract that pharmacists are under with pharmacy benefit managers when it comes to consumer costs.

A gag clause is a provision of a contract that keeps pharmacists from telling customers whether or not it would be cheaper to pay out-of-pocket for a medication instead of using their own health insurance. Clawback fees are when a PBM requires a pharmacy to charge more for a medication and then send the difference back to the manager.

Supporters of the new law said consumers are going to save money as well as the system.

“There are three pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that control 80 percent of the market and one of them owns its own chain and they set the price. It’s like Burger King setting McDonald’s hamburger prices. they’re setting the prices for the competitors,” said Bill Eley, director of legislative affairs with the American Pharmacy Cooperative, Inc. 

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