Groups seek CVS Caremark privacy violation probe

As a follow-up and update to a complaint initially reported here, Dinah Wisenberg Brin of Dow Jones Newswires reports:

Consumer advocates and a national pharmacists’ group have asked the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate possible violations of U.S. health-privacy rules by CVS Caremark Corp. (CVS), the combined drug retailer and pharmacy benefits manager.

The FTC already is probing CVS Caremark’s business practices after lawmakers and the National Community Pharmacists Association raised concerns, including allegations the company improperly used patient data from its pharmacy-benefit operation to steer customers into its CVS drug stores.

The NCPA and other groups added to their complaints in a letter dated last Friday to the FTC and HHS’ civil rights office that accused CVS Caremark of violating patient privacy laws–the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, and more recent provisions–by using protected patient information from health plans and competing pharmacies to channel customers into CVS drug stores.

[…]

The allegations center around CVS Caremark’s “maintenance choice” program, which allows Caremark PBM members to use a CVS pharmacy for 90-day supplies of chronic medications at the same price charged by the company’s mail-order pharmacy. Under employer drug plans that require members to use the Caremark mail-order pharmacy for maintenance prescriptions, patients essentially must buy the drugs either through the CVS Caremark mail pharmacy or at a CVS store.

[…]

CVS said the pharmacists’ group is challenging both “the convenient and affordable option of mail delivery” commonly used by PBMs and now “the convenient retail pick-up option that CVS Caremark is offering for our PBM mail-delivery prescriptions.” The company said its services are designed to improve patient health while reducing costs for plan sponsors.

Read more in the WSJ.

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