- The Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday it reached a proposed settlement with Surescripts in a yearslong antitrust case that alleged the health IT vendor monopolized two e-prescription drug markets.
- The proposed order would bar Surescripts from imposing exclusivity agreements on its clients and enforcing non-compete agreements with current and former employees for 20 years. The settlement applies to the routing and eligibility businesses the company was accused of monopolizing, but also its medication history and on-demand formulary services.
- In a statement, Surescripts, which is owned by healthcare giant CVS Health, pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts and two trade groups, argued the case relied on “significant factual errors” about its business and “mischaracterizations” about the economics of the e-prescription market.
The FTC first brought the case against Surescripts in 2019, saying the vendor had illegally maintained monopolies in two e-prescribing markets for routing and eligibility. Routing entails technology used to send prescriptions from providers to pharmacies, while eligibility allows them to check patients’ prescription coverage, usually through a PBM.
The suit alleged Surescripts had maintained a 95% share in both markets using threats and loyalty agreements that charged higher prices to customers that didn’t exclusively use its services. Regulators also argued the vendor had entered into an agreement with another company to prevent it from becoming a routing competitor.
“In large part because of Surescripts’ conduct, virtually everyone today who has a prescription filled electronically does so via the Surescripts networks,” FTC Bureau of Competition Director Holly Vedova said in a statement. “The proposed order would eliminate the anticompetitive restraints Surescripts has imposed on its customers since 2010 and would create conditions that allow competition to flourish for the benefit of anyone who gets a prescription filled at a pharmacy.”
Surescripts filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but it was rejected by a federal judge in 2020. In a statement, the company said it had reduced its e-prescribing transaction fees by 77% since 2009.
“We’re pleased that this agreement brings an end to the FTC’s litigation, formalizing changes to our business practices that we started several years ago, including the elimination of loyalty provisions in contracts,” Surescripts CEO Frank Harvey said in a statement.