AHF to Target PBM Abuse in New Campaign

In Advocacy, News by Ged Kenslea

Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), who act as middlemen between insurance companies and pharmacies, now dictate the pharmacies patients can use, driving up drug prices and undercutting small community pharmacies in the process

What started as a way to help patients access drugs they need has spiraled out of control. AHF is now taking on PBMs with a multifaceted advocacy campaign including community mobilization, legislative outreach, online advertising, social media posts and more urging greater regulation of these corporate health care middlemen to prevent abuses

WASHINGTON (April 29, 2021) In response to growing consolidation and increasingly monopolistic behavior in the pharmacy and health care industries, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is launching a new advocacy campaign to take on pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that are undercutting community pharmacies and driving up drug prices.

The national campaign aims to raise awareness about PBMs’ undue influence on patients’ access to the prescription drugs they may need and to educate the public and press elected officials to call out and prevent PBM abuses. The campaign also hopes to rein in the abusive industry, which broadly functions as middlemen between insurance companies and pharmacies.

AHF’s ‘Stop PBMs’ campaign will include direct and online community mobilization, legislative outreach, online and print advertising, a website, social media posts and more, all urging greater regulation of these corporate health care middlemen that are driving up drug prices.

“With the launch of our ‘Stop PBMs’ campaign, we hope to encourage community and legislative action and advocacy against these pharmacy and health care monopolies which grow bigger and greedier each passing day,” said John Hassell, national director of advocacy for AHF. “In particular, we also want to stop PBMs from hurting Ryan White and small independent pharmacies and their clients.”


Ryan White Contract Pharmacies & Independently owned pharmacies are being hurt by PBMs in several ways:

  • PBMs often enforce mandatory mail order of prescription drugs by their patients/clients, and
  • Force expensive drugs onto patients
  • Send six months’ worth of medications that may, or will expire
  • Send refrigerated medications that will go bad sitting on doorsteps
  • Force pharmacies into accepting reimbursement that doesn’t cover their costs through take it or leave it contracts and abusive practices like clawing back reimbursements months or years after payment.

“Large health care insurance companies and national pharmacy chains are merging with PBMs at a rapid rate. These mergers create megafirms that are rife with conflicts of interest.  They distort the market by locking out competing independent retail and specialty pharmacies.  This disrupts patient care and interferes with patient choice. The megafirms get richer and none of the profits go back to the patient,” added Scott Carruthers, Chief of Pharmacy and Senior Manager for AHF. “Our ‘Stop PBMs’ campaign shines a light on these abuses and calls for reform.”


The ‘Stop PBMs’ website (www.ahf.org/stop-pbms) leads with a probing, play-on-words banner headline: ‘Pharmacy Benefit Manipulators?’ The website offers visitors concerned about drug prices and access to the drugs they need several ways they may join or support the Stop PBMs campaign as well as a concise three-minute explainer video (direct YouTube link) that neatly distills the complex issue into an easily understood language and imagery.

Elements of the campaign include:

  • Facebook & Google digital display ads
  • Bus shelter and other outdoor advertising, including ads on more than a half-a-dozen bus shelters surrounding the White House (in order that legislative staff can see the ‘Stop PBMs’ campaign messaging as they come and go from the White House and East Wing Executive Office Building).

AHF’s ‘Stop PBMs’ campaign launches this week and will run through September. For more information about this campaign to fight back against PBMs who are putting their profit ahead of patient health, please visit: www.ahf.org/stop-pbms


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