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Pharmacists and legislators move to ban ‘gag clauses’

Francis Beaudet

Michigan pharmacists are working with federal legislators to remove a so-called gag clause barring them from recommending when patients might get their medication cheaper.

A recent study out of the University of Southern California found one in four Americans overpays for their prescription drugs.

Larry Wagenknecht is with the Michigan Pharmacists Association. He said pharmacy benefits managers - middlemen between insurance companies, drug companies, and pharmacies - make pharmacies sign gag clauses.

“This gag order occurs when a patient who has a 20 dollar copay on a prescription might be able to pick up that particular medication from the pharmacy when they pay cash for a less amount of money.”

US Senator Debbie Stabenow is a sponsor on a bill that would bar gag clauses. She said more and more insurance companies are requiring pharmacies sign contracts restricting what pharmacists can disclose.

“It’s very hard to defend the fact that the pharmacist can’t tell you the lowest price at the counter when you pick up your medicine.”

Stabenow said her bill to remove gag clauses has bipartisan support.

Representatives with the Michigan Pharmacists Association say they are working at both the state and federal level to have these gag clauses banned.