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Friday, November 7, 2014

Alcohol and Tobacco Sold at Pharmacies

In an attempt to promote healthier choices CVS no longer sells tobacco, a move that will cost the company an estimated $2 billion in revenues, according to The Wall Street Journal. In order to compensate for the loss, Caremark, the pharmacies benefits manager, announced it will require some customers to make a $15 co-payment on prescriptions filled at non-CVS pharmacies that sell tobacco. CVS owns Caremark so they have to find some way to make up for the losses.

It is not difficult to see that the CVS anti-tobacco move is not without complications, considering that many of those covered by Caremark do not smoke. Charging such customers an extra co-pay fee when filling their prescriptions at non-CVS pharmacies could be seen as unfair.

Following the lead of CVS, Express Scripts, the nation’s largest pharmacy benefits manager, is surveying pharmacy owners about developing a network of pharmacies that do not sell tobacco products or alcohol, the article reports. This move to create, what is called a “no-sin network,” may end up canceling out any competitive benefit for CVS and may exclude CVS pharmacies from the “no-sin network” because the pharmacy continues to sell alcohol in states that allow it.

“Some clients have inquired about creating networks that include pharmacies that do not sell tobacco or alcohol,” the Express Scripts spokesman told The Wall Street Journal. “We regularly survey our retail pharmacy partners on many topics and we are doing so now. At this point, we are gathering information.”

If Express Scripts moves forward with creating a network of vice free pharmacies, it may force CVS’ hand to stop selling alcohol. While removing products like tobacco and alcohol from pharmacies may promote healthier choices, in a way it is somewhat counter-intuitive. When you consider that many of the drugs found behind the counter are as equally addictive and self-destructive, drugs that continue to disrupt countless lives.

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