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IN BRIEF / PHARMACEUTICALS

Suit Says Bush Formed Drug Program in Secret

July 19, 2001|Bloomberg News

The Bush administration broke the law by working in secret with Merck-Medco, Express Scripts Inc., AdvancePCS and other pharmacy-benefit companies to develop a discount card for Medicare users, a lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit, filed by trade groups representing companies such as Walgreen Co. and CVS Corp., asks a judge to stop the discount program announced last week by President Bush.

The program will benefit five pharmacy-benefit companies and squeeze profit at neighborhood drugstores, said the National Assn. of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Assn., the groups that sued. Pharmacy-benefit companies, which control 90% of the U.S. mail-order drug business, want to use the card to steer customers into those profitable operations, the groups said.

According to the lawsuit, the Bush administration worked on the program secretly with pharmacy-benefit companies, which also manage prescription benefits for private insurers.

Health and Human Services Department spokesman Bill Pierce declined to comment on the lawsuit's allegations.

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