November 2020


Her name was Ida Tarbell. She was born in 1857. She was a Muckraker. While not a particularly flowery term, muckrakers and the process of muckraking have a storied history of changing the landscape of the U.S. You see, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, a muckraker today would be called an investigative journalist. Ida Tarbell was one of the first, if not the first, female muckrakers. And she was a good one.

In the late 1800’s the Standard Oil company was a fledgling business at the dawn of the mechanized era. John D. Rockefeller, the owner of Standard Oil, was making a lot of money in the oil business. John D. however, wanted to make more. He and two partners entered into an agreement that controlled the production, refining, and distribution of oil products in the U.S. Standard Oil, using their control of the oil pipeline and supply chain, proceeded to crush their competitors. If their competitors wouldn’t sell out, Standard Oil would enter their market, undercut their pricing and drive them out of business.

By the 1880’s Standard Oil controlled nearly 90% of the oil marked in the country and leveraged that ownership in a monopolistic manner. This anti-competitive, anti-consumer practice came to the attention of Ida Tarbell. Ida thoroughly investigated Standard Oil. During the 1880’s she wrote a series of articles that not only gained national public attention but created a national fervor for change. Her articles along with Standard Oil’s egregious actions let to congress passing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to control restraint of trade. In 1892 the Sherman Act was used as the tool to break up Standard Oil and their monopolistic hold on the oil industry.

Over the years, Standard Oil reorganized and was brought back into court for Sherman Act violations. In court they argued unsuccessfully that their size actually saved consumers money. Records showed Standard Oil would go so far as to threaten competitors clients. In one case they told a grocer, ” if you don’t buy our oil we will put in a grocery store next to you, sell goods at cost, and put you out of business.”

Check your latest PBM contracts. Where’s Ida Tarbell when you need her?

At ESPhA, our goal is to bring you quality, professional, service oriented, novel revenue streams that don’t require PBMs. We’re working daily towards that goal.

Richard Logan, Jr. PharmD

Richard Logan, Jr. PharmD, community pharmacist, community pharmacy advocate, and an ESPhA founding partner