‘Corporate Vampires Suck’ Ads by AHF Skewer CVS

In Featured, News by Ged Kenslea

AIDS care provider’s advocacy campaign targets corporate behemoth CVS for its anti-competitive behavior, notably, buying up health plans like Aetna, and then forcing patients—including HIV patients, who often rely on specialty services from their pharmacists—to obtain their lifesaving medications by mail order or drop shipment

Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to take up a class action suit filed by HIV patients who claim that CVS Caremark’s policy requiring them to obtain medications via mail or drop shipment is discriminatory under the Affordable Care Act 

LOS ANGELES (July 10, 2021) In response to the 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 health and pharmacy giant CVS, the sixth-largest corporation in the world over its anti-competitive business model which squeezes many independent and mom-and-pop pharmacies, some to the point of forcing their closure.

The campaign, ‘CVS: Corporate Vampires Suck (https://ahf.org/stop-cvs),’ targets CVS over its fierce anti-competitive behavior, specifically regarding its refusal to allow patients any choice in their pharmacy services. CVS’s currently forces most of its health plan patients from providers like Aetna—which CVS purchased for $69 billion in cash and stock in 2018—to obtain their lifesaving medications by mail order or drop shipment.

However, given the nature of their disease, HIV/AIDS patients often rely on the specialty services, years-long relationships, and expertise of their pharmacists, often viewing them as reliable partners in their care. With 36 years of experience in the health care field, AHF currently provides clinical care and other services to HIV/AIDS patients at 72 health care centers across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. It also operates a chain of 62 AHF Pharmacy outlets in 14 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

“CVS is a major threat to public health. While it began as ‘Consumer Value Stores’ back in the 1960s, those days are gone: CVS metastasized into a sharp-elbowed corporate behemoth buying up health plans for billions and forcing clients—including HIV/AIDS patients—to use their mail order services, harming patients and fragmenting their care in the process,” said Michael Weinstein president of AHF. “Patients are suffering AND small pharmacies are being squeezed and put out of business. That’s why we put some real teeth into this new advocacy campaign targeting CVS—we need the public’s help to fight back against these ‘corporate vampires.’”


The ‘CVS: Corporate Vampires Suck’ campaign kicks off in full force this week, with a full-page, full-color ad running in as many as five daily and weekly newspapers across the country with most landing Sunday, July 11. The ad also ran in the weekly Houston Defender Thursday, July 8. The Sunday papers include the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, Houston Chronicle, and the Chicago Defender (online, next week) and will also appear sometime next week in Rhode Island’s Providence Journal. CVS is headquartered in nearby Woonsocket, RI. The ads will be complemented by a radio campaign, social media and a legislative call-to-action urging viewers and readers to contact their legislators asking them to help fight back against CVS’s monopolistic and anti-competitive behavior.

“Large health care insurance companies and national pharmacy chains distort the market by locking out competing independent retail and specialty pharmacies like AHF’s.  This disrupts patient care and interferes with patient choice,” added Scott Carruthers, chief of pharmacy and senior manager for AHF. “Our new campaign shines a light on these abuses by one particularly egregious offender—CVS—and calls for reform.”


Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Related Lawsuit by HIV Patients Over Pharmacy Choice                                                    

In a related, but uncoordinated action last week, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to take up a class action suit filed by HIV patients who claim that CVS Caremark’s policy requiring them to obtain medications via mail or drop shipment is discriminatory under the Affordable Care Act. According to Politico Pro (Susannah Luthi, July 2,2021) the court will consider antidiscrimination protections when it “… consider(s) whether the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and by extension the Affordable Care Act, allows a ‘disparate impact’ claim from plaintiffs alleging disability discrimination. In a class action suit, HIV patients claimed CVS Caremark’s policy requiring them to obtain medications by mail order or drop shipment is discriminatory.” Politico Pro also noted the Supreme Court is likely to hold oral arguments in the fall.

In December 2020, AHF welcomed a lower court ruling in the CVS case that now goes before the Supreme Court. AHF publicly applauded a ruling issued December 9, 2020, from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that people living with HIV can state a discrimination claim under the U.S. Affordable Care Act against CVS for requiring them to have only designated specialty pharmacies as part of in-network pharmacy services for private insurance plans.  See Doe vs. CVS Pharmacy, Inc.

In 2018, AHF also warned the U.S. Department of Justice that the then proposed CVS merger with Aetna would create a monopoly-like behemoth that would harm patients, which appears to be the case.

AHF’s ‘CVS: Corporate Vampires Suck’ campaign launches this week and will run until September. For more information about this campaign to fight back against CVS and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) who are putting their profit ahead of patient health, please visit: https://ahf.org/stop-cvs


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