The Federal Trade Commission announced a proposed settlement Thursday with health information technology company Surescripts over a lawsuit accusing the company of using anticompetitive practices to illegally maintain a monopoly over two e-prescription drug markets.
The settlement woud bar Surescripts from engaging in exclusionary conduct and enforcing non-compete agreements with its current and former employees. The FTC said the settlement would open up competition and benefit consumers.
The FTC said the settlement would help create a more even playing field in the e-prescription drug market, given Surescripts’ 95% market share in the space.
“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,” FTC Bureau of Competition Director Holly Vedova said in a news release.
The FTC sued Surescripts in 2019, alleging the company created illegal vertical and horizontal restraints to monopolize two e-prescribing markets: routing and eligibility. The market for routing e-perscriptions uses technology that lets healthcare providers send electronic prescriptions directly to pharmacies. Another technology allows insurers to confirm patient eligibility. The agency contended consumers were penalized by paying higher prices if they bought prescriptions from another company.
In a statement, Surescripts contends the FTC relied on significant factual errors about its business and mischaracterized “the realities of the e-prescribing market” in the lawsuit.
“Surescripts is proud to have pioneered electronic prescribing that has brought enormous value to patients and care providers alike. For more than two decades, Surescripts has delivered innovations that increase patient safety, lower costs and ensure quality care,” Surescripts CEO Frank Harvey said in the statement. “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.”
The proposed settlement runs 20 years and would prohibit Surescripts from “engaging in the types of exclusionary conduct” that the FTC alleged in its lawsuit. It also extends the same bans on the company’s medication history services and on-demand formulary services. The settlement requires final approval from the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia.