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Billions of prescriptions are filled electronically every year. Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

A small pharmacy in New York has filed a class-action lawsuit against Surescripts, alleging that the company conspired with other health technology vendors to keep monopoly control over the market for electronically filled prescriptions.

The big picture: Antitrust litigation is piling up quickly against Surescripts, as the company's customers and federal regulators alike believe it has locked competitors out of a space that has become necessary to fill four out of five drug prescriptions.

Between the lines: A lot of the lawsuit, filed by Falconer Pharmacy, builds on allegations from the Federal Trade Commission and Amazon.

  • Namely, it says Surescripts has forced pharmacies and vendors to use only its electronic prescribing network at noncompetitive rates, or else face even higher prices as "non-loyal" customers.
  • Falconer Pharmacy said in the complaint that it pays "at least 17 cents per routing transaction," but Surescripts has previously revealed that more competitive prices would be between one and three cents per transaction.

But, but, but: The lawsuit goes one step further, naming technology vendors RelayHealth (part of McKesson) and Allscripts as co-conspirators.

  • RelayHealth and Allscripts signed contracts that forced them to use Surescripts exclusively, but Surescripts passed along incentive payments to them in return, according to the complaint.
  • McKesson and Allscripts did not immediately respond for comment.

Surescripts CEO Tom Skelton said the company is "disappointed in the allegations."

  • "We take seriously our role in helping serve patients and the people who care for them, and we remain confident that our business practices support that goal.”

The bottom line: Surescripts is one of the most obvious monopolies in health care. The increasing legal heat raises questions about whether regulators and policymakers would advocate for breaking up the company or mandating price concessions.

Editor's note: This post has been updated to note RelayHealth's pharmacy business remains part of McKesson, not Change Healthcare.

Go deeper

17 mins ago - Health

U.S. ahead of pace on vaccines

A health care worker administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine in Ruleville, Mississippi. Photo: Rory Doyle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. is now vaccinating an average of 2 million people a day, up from 1.3 million in early February.

Why it matters: That puts us on track to hit President Biden's goal of 100 million doses a month ahead of schedule.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Harris breaks tie as Senate proceeds with lengthy debate on COVID relief bill

Photo: Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-50 — with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — to proceed to debate on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, likely setting up a final vote this weekend.

The state of play: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is forcing the Senate clerk to read the entire 628-page bill on the floor, a procedural move that will likely add 10 hours to the 20 hours already allotted for debate.

3 hours ago - World

Netanyahu campaigns against Biden's plan to save Iran deal

Netanyahu campaigns at a gym last month. Photo: Pool/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indirectly criticized the Biden administration for its intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal and told his supporters he was prepared to "stand against the entire world" to stop it.

Why it matters: This is a major change of tune for Netanyahu, who had been careful in his statements on the Iran deal and avoided publicly criticizing President Biden. The statement was part of Netanyahu's attempt to rally his base ahead of Israel's election on March 23.

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