NCPA launches company to assist pharmacies with litigation against PBMs over DIR fees

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) has launched the latest salvo in its battle with pharmacy benefit managers over controversial fees.

The NCPA will establish Trust LLC, a limited liability company that will investigate the use of direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees on behalf of community pharmacies. Should it be necessary, Trust will also litigate or arbitrate for the pharmacies, according to the announcement.

NCPA has argued that these fees constitute an antitrust violation and have deprived pharmacies of large sums of money. In the release, the organization describes DIR fees as "the unconscionable behavior of the largest pharmacy benefit managers."

“PBMs shouldn't be able to make assessing junk DIR fees against competing pharmacies a multi-billion dollar cottage industry that puts their competition out of business and compromises patient care,” said NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey in the release. “It’s completely anti-competitive, and we’re fighting back."

The news comes just weeks after an Iowa pharmacy filed suit against CVS Caremark, one of the biggest PBMs in the country, over DIR fees. NCPA cheered the lawsuit, calling it "payback."

Caremark said in a statement to Fierce Healthcare that the allegations in the lawsuit are "without merit."

Trust has retained Berger Montague, Cohen & Gresser LLP and Baker Donelson as law firms to lead any litigation. Berger Montague and Cohen & Gresser are the leading attorneys on the class-action suit against Caremark, NCPA said.

“These companies have nearly unlimited resources and it’s almost impossible for a single independent pharmacy to fight them alone," Hoey said. "The way the contracts are set up, arbitration for claims like these can top $1,000,000 for a single pharmacy."

"NCPA’s efforts allow independent pharmacies to assign their claims to TRUST LLC to fight the PBMs together,” he added. “It’s still not an even playing field, but we have a much better chance of getting justice if we join forces.”