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Express Scripts Cuts Payments for Customized Drugs

The nation's largest pharmacy benefit manager, Express Scripts, is dramatically scaling back its coverage of compounded medications, saying most of the custom-mixed medicines are ineffective or overpriced. The company, which manages prescriptions for 90 million Americans, plans to drop coverage for 1,000 drug ingredients commonly found in compounded medications. Express Scripts executives say the move is a cost-saver for employers that will reduce their spending on compounded prescriptions by 95 percent.

The coverage change has prompted a swift pushback from compounding pharmacists, who argue that such cuts deprive patients of crucial medications that are not available as manufactured drugs. A compounding pharmacy industry spokesman said similar efforts to curb coverage are in the works from several insurers and pharmacy benefit providers. Express Scripts says patients will still be able to get necessary compounded medicines under its plan. Instead, the company's cuts focus on untested topical creams and ointments used to treat pain and other conditions.

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-The Associated Press