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Employee sues J&J over PBM costs

A Johnson & Johnson employee is suing the company for allegedly violating ERISA by mismanaging prescription drug benefits. The lawsuit accuses the company of paying inflated costs for generic drugs to its PBM, Cigna’s Express Scripts, resulting in higher costs for employees. One example: a generic MS drug costing over $10,000 for a 90-day prescription through the plan. At retail pharmacies, it’s available for around $40. The J&J suit is just the more recent in a spate of lawsuits focusing on self-funded employers’ fiduciary duties under ERISA. (Becker’s Payer Review)

Practice Transformation

Amazon launches pharmacy consult pilot while cutting jobs

Amazon Pharmacy has announced a pilot program to offer pharmacy consultation services to providers from One Medical, a primary care service acquired by Amazon in early 2023. This program is specifically designed for providers who see high-risk and complex care patients, including those involved in the One Medical Seniors at Home initiative. In related news, Amazon has eliminated hundreds of jobs in its Pharmacy and One Medical divisions. Neil Lindsay, who leads Amazon Health Services, says the company will continue to invest in health care (ForbesCNBC)

Express Scripts fueled opioid epidemic, Boston lawsuit claims

Boston has sued PBMs, including Express Scripts and OptumRx, alleging they colluded with opioid manufacturers, ignored misuse evidence for profit, and contributed to the opioid crisis. The suit accuses these PBMs of prioritizing profits over lives by deceptively marketing opioids, neglecting to report illegitimate prescriptions, violating laws, favoring opioids on the national drug registry for rebates, failing to control excessive distribution, dispensing opioids without controlling diversion, and colluding with Purdue Pharma to boost sales. (Boston Globe)

Evidence & Innovation

STAT commentary: Keep printed medication info

The shift from printed to digital medication information, such as QR codes, poses public health risks, warns John Whyte, MD, chief medical officer of WebMD, formerly of the FDA. Older patients in particular struggle with technology, and eliminating printed information could increase medication non-adherence risks. Both printed and digital information should be accessible and easy to read. Despite the benefits of technology, not everything is suited for a digital-only format, he says. “America should resist the temptation to follow other countries’ lead and protect printed pharmaceutical literature. Doing so will save lives.” (STAT)

COVID-era opioid treatment policies now permanent

The Biden administration is permanently adopting policies that eased opioid addiction treatment access during the pandemic. This marks the first update in 20 years to rules governing clinics providing medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. The policy allows home doses of methadone, telehealth treatment initiation, and removes the yearlong opioid misuse history requirement for clinic admission. It also enables nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe opioid disorder medications where state laws permit. (Axios)

Policy Solutions

Ad company settles opioid lawsuit

For the first time, an advertising company that worked on Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin account has settled a lawsuit that accused it of falsely marketing opioids as safe. Publicis, a French marketing company, agreed to pay $350 million within the next two months and will not take on any more opioid clients. New York Attorney General Letitia James and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser led the settlement negotiations, which included a consortium of eight other states. (CNN)

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