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CVS faces boycott threats after dispute with birth-control delivery startup Pill Club

CVS faces boycott threats after dispute with birth-control delivery startup Pill Club
[Photo: Tdorante10/Wikimedia Commons]

On Thursday, prescription delivery startup Pill Club posted a missive concerning CVS that has the Twitterverse in a frenzy.

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“CVS Caremark’s proposed payment changes threaten Pill Club’s ability to serve members,” the company said on its website. “Pill Club members with pharmacy coverage through CVS Caremark are at risk of their birth control access being disrupted.”

The disagreement concerns how much CVS pays Pill Club for its prescription delivery service. CVS has allegedly decided to cut its reimbursement rates to the service, and in response, Pill Club says it will have to stop working with the pharmacy chain. “If we cannot convince CVS to change course in the next few weeks, we will have no choice but to stop serving people with CVS Caremark pharmacy benefits,” the company says. “The reality is that we would be out of business if every pharmacy manager did what CVS is doing. And thousands of women would be without the birth control they need.”

Women’s health advocates are now threatening to boycott CVS.

In response, CVS has released a statement calling Pill Club’s accusations “extremely misleading” and saying Pill Club still participates in its pharmacy network. The company clarifies that, earlier this year, it made changes to the way it reimburses companies like Pill Club, which operate on a different business model than retail drug stores.

The story is interesting because pharmacy benefit managers are constantly negotiating pricing with their vendors. However, these disagreements rarely go public, let alone viral. But as NARAL president Ilyse Hogue’s tweet illustrates, it’s a particularly sensitive time to mess around with women’s healthcare.

CVS’s full statement as provided to Business Insider appears below:

“Our coverage of contraceptives is widespread throughout our network of 68,000 pharmacies, ensuring accessible and affordable access to our members. The accusations being made by Pill Club against CVS Caremark are extremely misleading. Pill Club continues to be a participating pharmacy in our network and there is no impact on its customers’ access to contraceptives. We are committed to providing access to women’s health care and it is irresponsible for Pill Club to suggest otherwise in an effort to maximize their profits at the expense of our PBM clients.

Earlier this year, we notified certain non-traditional pharmacies, including Pill Club, which had been receiving reimbursement at the same rate as the retail drugstores in our PBM pharmacy network, that it would be subject to additional terms and reimbursement applicable to its business model. Other pharmacies in our network with similar business models as Pill Club have agreed to the same terms and reimbursement.

We remain committed to providing plan design options for our clients that includes coverage for contraceptive products, including birth control pills. Ensuring that the pharmacies in our network are reimbursed appropriately based on their business models helps our clients provide cost-effective coverage for their members’ pharmacy care needs.”

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