By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—On Sunday, State Representative Greg Wren (R-Montgomery) confessed to his Sunday School class at the First Baptist Church of Montgomery that he would soon be indicted on criminal charges by the State’s Attorney General’s Office, according to sources with intimate knowledge of the events.
Wren’s pending indictment may be tied to his effort to place 23 words into the State’s 2013 General Fund Budget that would have granted a monopoly for the American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI), a Bessemer based company.
In a scheme that is believed to have originated with Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), APCI would have become the sole provider of pharmaceuticals for the State’s million dollar Medicaid program.
Hubbard and Wren both had lucrative contracts with APCI at the time the 23 words were placed into the budget.
SB143 was originally drafted by Sen. Arthur Orr, Republican chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee. The bill was introduced in February of 2013 and finally passed out of the Senate with three amendments on March 12th. When state Senators sent the budget to the House, there was no language benefiting APCI. But, by Feb. 23rd, the House had re-crafted the budget adding a section that would have forced the state into using a pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) to administer the Medicaid prescription drug purchased.
According to the bill: “The Alabama Medicaid Agency, in order to implement a pharmacy benefit manager program, must seek a pharmacy benefit management organization or manager that will: (i) act in fiduciary capacity and perform its duties in accordance with standards of conduct applicable to a fiduciary, including the allocation of all drug manufacturer rebates, discounts, and incentives to the State General Fund; (ii) establish a maximum allowable cost list; and (iii) operate a group purchasing function with a purchasing base for generic drugs consisting of at least 30% of the retail pharmacies in Alabama.” Those 23 words requiring the PBM have a purchasing base of 30 percent locked in Hubbard and Wren’s client, APCI, as it is the only company that fits the description, officials said.
Wren acknowledged to the media that he was responsible for inserting the language into the budget.
Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) was asked last year if he and Speaker Hubbard had spoken about the 23 word addition to the budget. “You know we (Clouse and Hubbard) talk about a lot of things with the budget. I don’t remember in particular.” Clouse said he recalled Wren suggested the passage benefiting APCI. Wren was “concerned about independent pharmacists and he wanted to add language in there… Greg wanted to put the language in there, so I told him to go ahead and write it up.” Neither Hubbard or Wren responded to multiple phone messages and emails seeking comment for this story.
Wren’s confession to his Sunday School class is believed to be the prelude to a larger scandal involving Speaker Hubbard, legislators, lobbyist and legislative staff members.
Wren reportedly said on Sunday, “People will no longer trust their government.”