President Donald Trump displays a bill he signed into law Wednesday that outlaws gag clauses that prevent pharmacists from telling patients when they can save money by paying out of pocket. The sponsor of the bill was U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter of Pooler, the only pharmacist serving in Congress. (PHOTO courtesy of the White House)

Pharmacy ‘gag clause’ bills sponsored by Georgia’s Carter signed into law

President Donald Trump on Wednesday evening signed into law two bills that prohibit gag clauses for pharmacists who want to help their patients save money.

The bill was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter of Pooler. He is the only pharmacist in Congress.

Up to now, large companies were allowed to include clauses in their contracts with pharmacists that were essentially gag clauses. The clauses forbade pharmacists from telling their patients when they might save money by paying for their medication a different way, for example with out-of-pocket cash rather than going through insurance.

The companies, called pharmacy benefit managers, wield enormous sway in the public drug market and have recently come under increasing media scrutiny.

“I know firsthand how important it is for pharmacists to have the ability to work with patients to figure out what is in their best interest,” said Carter, a Republican. “Now, we must continue our work with President Trump to lower prescription drug prices and health care costs for all Americans.”

That has been a stated priority of the Trump administration under U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Many were skeptical, since Azar worked in the pharmaceuticals industry, but while he is so far unlikely to support something earth-shaking such as allowing the government to negotiate the prices that Medicare and Medicaid pay with pharmaceutical companies, he has racked up some initiatives such as supporting quashing the gag clauses that are likely to have clear, if modest, impact.

The bills signed Wednesday are the Know the Lowest Price Act and the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act. The Know the Lowest Price Act prohibits the gag clause provisions in Medicare. The Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act prohibits the gag clause provisions in group and individual health plans.

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