Pharmacist Scott Evans works at Couch Pharmacy

Pharmacist Scott Evans works at the independent Couch Pharmacy in 2017. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World file

Congratulations to legislators who stuck to their guns on a proposal to bring more competition to Oklahoma drug stores.

Prescription benefit managers — commonly referred to as PBMs — are supposed to reduce prescription drug costs to insurance companies by encouraging the use of generic drugs, negotiating rebates from manufacturers, managing high-cost medications and reducing waste.

All of that is good, but small drug stores complain that the PBMs have increasingly been in the business of helping big chains grow their market shares by freezing out independent competition.

To address the issue, the Oklahoma Legislature overwhelmingly approved Senate Bill 841 earlier this year. The bill would have banned PBMs from blocking qualifying drug stores from their customer networks.

Not one legislator voted against the bill, but under strong pressure from the Oklahoma State Chamber, Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed it.

Instead of mounting a veto override against the first-year governor, supporters of the idea worked out a second bill, House Bill 2632, that hit the same essential issues. They negotiated on some points but stuck to the critical element that PBMs could not exclude pharmacies from their networks if the pharmacy is “willing to accept the terms and conditions that the PBM has established for other pharmacies.”

That’s just fair play, right? If the little guy is willing to play by the same rules as the big companies, it should get the same deal. The winner here would be the consumer, who gets more choice and the lower prices PBMs are designed to produce.

Again, the proposal got essentially unanimous — i.e., veto-proof — support in both chambers. This time Stitt relented. He signed the bill last week.

We’re glad HB 2632’s sponsors — House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols (with the assistance of Rep. Marcus McEntire) and Sen. Greg McCortney — stuck by their guns. They gave Stitt a second chance to do the right thing, and he took it.

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