WASHINGTON, DC — June 25, 2003 — “Food retailers and wholesalers — especially those that operate and support 12,000 in-store pharmacies — strongly support the efforts in Congress to grant seniors a prescription drug benefit,” said Tim Hammonds, president and CEO of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), commenting on legislation that the House and Senate could approve as early as this week.

“We salute the members of Congress and the White House for crafting a meaningful drug benefit for those who need it the most. By harnessing the forces of free enterprise and by creating a fair marketplace for seniors and businesses alike, you are writing a new chapter in the history of health care. Food retailers and wholesalers are proud to play a part in this historic undertaking.”

“By embracing competition, the legislation helps give seniors variety, value and ready access to the medications and the pharmacies they need,” Hammonds said. “The legislation preserves for seniors the option to have their prescriptions filled locally and paid for within the Medicare program. Starting in 2006, with a government drug benefit, consumers can shop for the best coverage and service among retail pharmacies, drug companies, insurance plans, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), mail-order firms and others.

“One of its most important provisions preserves for seniors the opportunity to stay with their neighborhood pharmacist, who knows their health history, who can prevent adverse drug interactions and, who in food-store pharmacies, can provide nutritional counseling to complement their medical treatment.”

Measure Will Help Curb Health Care Costs for Seniors
“The Senate version will speed the introduction of generic drugs by allowing drug manufacturers to renew patents only once, instead of indefinitely, Hammonds said. “It will also allow retail and wholesale pharmacies to reimport drugs from foreign countries so they can more efficiently serve their senior customers. We urge members of the House to add these provisions to their bill or to the measure that is finalized by a conference committee.

“Also important for seniors is the transparency provision, which will force PBMs to disclose the rebates and discounts they receive from pharmaceutical companies. This provision helps ensure that these savings are passed along to seniors, and it allows them to shop for the most cost-effective plans.

“This legislation will also allow all pharmacies in the program to dispense 90-day maintenance prescriptions, leveling the competitive playing field with mail-order providers.

“In all, this legislation is a major step forward toward improving the health care for those who are among the most valuable and vulnerable people in our society.”

The 12,000 food retail pharmacies represent the fastest-growing segment of the retail pharmacy marketplace. From 1998 to 2002, the number of prescriptions they dispensed increased by 45 percent, according to IMS Health.