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WASHINGTON -- For the past two days, experts testified in front of U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon in a unique hearing to determine whether the proposed settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice, CVS Health and Aetna is in the public interest. The hearings began as CVS Health announced plans to turn 1,500 stores into HealthHUBs, providing more services to patients and further complicating the impact of this merger on American consumers.
During the hearing, expert witnesses testified that the merger of CVS Health, the nation’s largest retail pharmacy chain and one of the largest pharmacy benefit managers (PBM), and Aetna, the third-largest health insurer in the United States, will increase prescription drug prices, limit patient choices, and reduce transparency.
Dr. Diana Moss of the American Antitrust Institute testified on behalf of U.S. PIRG, which, along with Consumer Action, filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief.
PIRG Consumer Watchdog Adam Garber issued the following statement at the end of expert testimony:
“Judge Leon’s refusal to rubber-stamp the proposed merger settlement has helped reveal that while Americans are already paying high prices for prescription drugs and other care, it could be worse if this mega-merger is approved.
“The lack of transparency in prescription drug pricing thanks to the opaque PBMs, combined with the new entity’s immense power, would increase prescription drug prices without improving the quality of care that Americans receive. And, it could squeeze more independent or small pharmacies out of business -- even though our research found they often have the best prices for medications.
“The government should reassess the merger and realize that Americans need a variety of choices as consumers to stay healthy in body and mind.”
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