WSJ Spotlight Helps Get Results on Antitrust

The Wall Street Journal follows up this morning on its report on CVS Caremark’s business practices six months ago.

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating the company’s doings, which the Journal in May reported include blatantly anticompetitive stuff like raising co-pays for people who shop at non-CVS pharmacies. Caremark is a pharmacy-benefits manager that merged with CVS, the big pharmacy chain. Who could have seen this kind of thing coming in a deal like that?

Apparently not antitrust regulators.

The Journal notes drily in its lede that the investigation, as well as some poor third-quarter results, are “raising questions about the soundness of the $27 billion merger between the giant drug chain and big pharmacy-benefit manager that created the company in 2007.”

I’d say so.

Analysts say the loss of business may stem from worries by customers that CVS’s PBM might not negotiate as aggressively with its CVS pharmacy chain, and that the merger created a conflict of interest.

While the WSJ didn’t exactly dig up the information for its May story—competing pharmacists leaked it just before turning it over to the FTC—it did recognize the import of it and put a thousand words on a section front spelling out the problem.

That kind of thing makes it much harder for regulators to try to ignore an issue or sweep it under the carpet.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.