The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled 8-0 in favor of upholding an Arkansas law regulating pharmacy benefits managers.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, whose office defended the law, said:
“This is an important unanimous win for not only locally owned pharmacies that have experienced financial hardships at the hands of pharmacy benefit managers, but more importantly, this is a win for all Arkansans and Americans to have access to affordable health care,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “I will always protect Arkansans and small businesses from unfair practices and fight to lower the costs of prescription drugs.
The benefit managers had argued federal law pre-empted state regulation. The law makes the managers reimburse pharmacies at or above their wholesale costs for generic drugs and prevents them from paying drug stores they own more than they pay other pharmacies. CVS Health, to name one, owns both a benefits manager and a national pharmacy chain.
The case has been closely watched in the pharmacy business because other states have adopted similar laws.
Arkansas has argued that the managers have been unduly profiting from the spread between what they pay pharmacies and what they charge health plans for drugs. Independent pharmacists say the practice has driven many out of business.
The Supreme Court decision reverses both a district court and appeals court ruling.
Arkansas argued before the Supreme Court that it didn’t contradict federal law because it didn’t regulate benefits, drug prices and plan administration and didn’t discriminate among those covered.