DMS Pharmaceutical Group Inc. lost a challenge to a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs decision to exclude small businesses from a drug supply contract valued at as much as $32 billion, according to a decision announced yesterday.
The closely held Park Ridge, Illinois company had filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office, which arbitrates contract disputes, after the VA canceled a plan to reserve some work in the contract for small businesses.
VA officials “reasonably determined” that DMS’s bid was unacceptable because the company didn’t meet several of the agency’s requirements for the work, such as having an online inventory system, the GAO found.
“The evaluation of technical proposals is a matter within the discretion of the contracting agency, since the agency is responsible for defining its needs and the best method for accommodating them,” the decision said. “An offeror’s mere disagreement with the agency’s judgment concerning the adequacy of the proposal is not sufficient to establish that the agency acted unreasonably.”
Protests by DMS and another small drug wholesaler have delayed the award of the drug distribution contract, expected to have about the same value as the current contract held by McKesson Corp., or about $4 billion a year over as many as 8 years, according to the VA. Department officials won’t award the new contract until both protests are resolved, Jo Schuda, a VA spokeswoman, said in a March 26 e-mail.
DMS officials “are extremely disappointed,” Bill Anderson, executive vice president for the company, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
“Once again, it appears this $4+ billion contract will be awarded with zero small business participation,” Anderson said. “This decision, under President Obama’s watch, proves that Main Street continues to get overlooked to the benefit of Wall Street.”
He said he remains hopeful the VA will find some way to increase work with small drug wholesalers in the upcoming contract.
PBA Health, a Kansas City, Missouri-based drug distributor, has also filed a protest on the contract, according to the GAO website. The GAO has until June 4 to rule on that protest.
Schuda and Josh Taylor, a VA spokesman, didn’t respond to an e-mail and phone call seeking comment.
The VA has asked the GAO to dismiss the protest from PBA Health, Ralph O. White, the GAO’s managing associate general counsel, said in an interview today. He said that request would be shared with PBA Health and the company would be given an opportunity to respond before the GAO makes its decision.
McKesson has been the VA’s primary medicine supplier for veterans’ hospitals and the department’s mail-order pharmacy since 2004. The largest U.S. drug distributor based on revenue, it has received as much as $27 billion in orders under the current contract, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The San Francisco-based company is competing against Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp., based in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania for the current version of the contract.
The Government Accountability Office, Congress’s investigative arm, issues decisions that provide guidance to government agencies during contract disputes. It can’t compel agencies to comply, though its guidance is rarely ignored.