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Pharmacy ‘gag clauses’ ban approved by Senate

September 17, 2018

The Senate voted Monday to ban “gag clauses” that prevent pharmacists from telling customers they can save money in some cases by paying cash for their prescriptions, instead of relying on their insurance and making the co-payment.

President Trump, who pushed for a similar ban in his drug-pricing blueprint, threw his support behind the measure in a Twitter post ahead of the 92-2 vote.

“Americans deserve to know the lowest drug price at their pharmacy, but ‘gag clauses’ prevent your pharmacist from telling you!” he tweeted. “I support legislation that will remove gag clauses and urge the Senate to act.”

Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and chief sponsor of the bill, says too many Americans are overpaying because pharmacists can only divulge the cheaper option if the customer specifically asks about it.

Ms. Collins drafted her bill after she watched a couple walk out of a Bangor, Maine, pharmacy without their medication because their copay was too expensive. Home-state pharmacists also prodded her to act.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), a trade group for pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) that have been blamed for the gag clauses, has said it supports the legislation because it “aligns with standard practice” in the industry.

Senators said gag clauses still pop up, though, so a ban is needed.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced a bill containing Ms. Collins’ language on gag clauses, though the full chamber hasn’t taken it up yet.

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