FILE - PA pharmacy Lancaster 12-11-2018

A pharmacist helps out a customer Dec. 11, 2018, at Royer Pharmacy in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

A bipartisan package of Pennsylvania House bills linked to pharmacy benefit managers awaiting in the state Senate has been described as legislation that provides greater transparency in prescription drug prices and gives consumers more protections.

The bills – four total – passed last month in the House of Representatives and have the backing of Your PA Community Pharmacies, a coalition of independently operated drugstores across the state. But at least one organization, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, has gone on record in opposition to the legislation.

State Reps. Doyle Heffley, R-Weissport, and Rob Matzie, D-Ambridge, are the co-prime sponsors of House Bill 941, which, if enacted as written, would give the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services the authority to request payment information from pharmacy benefit managers and, upon request, require disclosures be furnished.

Pharmacy benefit managers are subcontractors that often can dictate how much a pharmacy can charge a customer for certain prescription medications.

In a statement, Heffley said the legislation was drafted after he and Matzie conferred with local pharmacists within their district and learned of cuts they have endured in Medicaid reimbursement rates.

“Our legislation will help to ensure these community pharmacies are able to survive and serve their customers of all ages, especially in rural areas of the state,” Heffley said.

HB942, sponsored by state Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, is legislation that would codify a panel known as the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee through the state DHS. As proposed, two community pharmacists would serve on the committee.

“We’ve heard numerous stories about how drug pricing is driving out small businesses,” Grove said in a statement. “Some large PBMs drastically slashed reimbursements to independent pharmacists. Some of the owners of these mom-and-pop pharmacies were then offered to have their businesses bought by large chain pharmacies.”

State Rep. Valerie Gaydos, R-Moon Township, authored HB943, which would give pharmacists the ability to share cost-savings information with consumers on prescription drugs. The legislation would prohibit PBMs from placing stipulations around the practice.

“This legislation will go a long way toward consumer protection in removing the gag order that currently burdens pharmacies,” Gaydos said in a statement. “The effect of this bill will be a more transparent and consumer-friendly prescription drug marketplace, where patients benefit from the full disclosure of their pharmacists.”

The final of the package of bills is HB944, sponsored by state Rep. Jonathan Fritz, R-Honesdale. The legislation would give the auditor general the ability to review PBM’s subcontracts.

“This legislation is a call for transparency, fairness and accountability among Medicaid pharmacy benefit managers, who use taxpayer dollars to subcontract with managed care organizations,” Fritz said in a statement. “Many other states have begun doing this, and the process has proven to be worthwhile.”

Patricia Epple, CEO of Your PA Community Pharmacies, said she thinks the package of bills would provide Pennsylvanians with the best possible drug prices.

“We thank members of the House for their broad, bipartisan support of this package,” Epple said in a statement. “Pennsylvania should not be overpaying for prescription drugs, and the savings should be invested into the program and the families who need it – not into the pockets of large, corporate PBMs.”

But JC Scott, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, said PBMs have been unfairly vilified.

In an opinion piece published on PennLive, Scott said PBMs have saved Pennsylvanians $28.5 billion in the past decade through negotiations and other strategies.

“Unfortunately, while taking on drug manufacturers to lower prescription drug costs, PBMs are often unfairly maligned by another player in the drug supply chain – the independent pharmacist,” Scott said in the op-ed.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released a report last year indicating that the business practices of PBMs were putting the future of independent pharmacies in peril.