Iowa court ruling: Victory for pharmacists

As the scope of pharmacy practice increases in complexity, more and more pharmacy-related issues are making headlines as they go before the judicial system.

A few months ago, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that people with drug addictions could sue pharmacists, physicians, and other dispensers and prescribers of pain medications for contributing to their addiction and criminal activity.

Although the West Virginia ruling was discouraging to many pharmacists, another ruling, this time in Iowa, is a clear-cut victory for pharmacists and their patients. The Southern District Court of Iowa granted the State of Iowa’s motion to dismiss the remaining complaints of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association’s (PCMA) lawsuit against it over the state’s pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) regulation law.

This court case speaks to the rising costs of many generic drugs, and PBM corporations’ slow response to update reimbursement rates, which hinders patients’ access to medications and pharmacy’s ability to provide services.

A year ago, PCMA filed a lawsuit against Iowa’s Insurance Commissioner and Attorney General over section 501B.8 of the Iowa Code (HF 2297). This piece of legislation requires that PBMs disclose their Maximum Allowable Cost pricing lists and methodology as requested by the Iowa Insurance Commissioner. Pharmacists were in favor of this legislation because it would bring greater transparency to PBM business practices in Iowa.

In all, PCMA brought six claims against the Iowa legislation; four were dismissed in February, and the last two were dismissed last week.

My colleague, Kate Gainer, CEO of the Iowa Pharmacy Association (IPA), said in a statement that “the dismissal of all six of PCMA’s claims to uphold the PBM legislation passed in the state of Iowa is a victory for pharmacies and healthcare consumers, not only in our state but across the country.” APhA was a supporter of the IPA effort.

An important facet of pharmacy practice is making sure patients can afford the medications they are prescribed. There must be transparency when dealing with PBMs to ensure that patients receive the care they need.

My hope is that the Iowa ruling will send a strong message and hopefully set a legal precedent for other claims that challenge transparency pricing laws in other states.