WASHINGTON D.C.: Amidst the surging costs of prescription drugs such as insulin, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said it is probing how big pharmacy benefit managers, such as at CVS Caremark, are influenced in terms of pricing and patients’ access to medications.
As part of its probe, the FTC will contact CVS Health Corp’s Caremark, Humana Inc, Cigna Corp’s Express Scripts and UnitedHealth Group’s OptumRx and other companies.
Pharmacy benefit managers negotiate with drugmakers for rebates and lower fees on behalf of employers and other clients, and reimburse pharmacies for prescriptions.
However, the practices of pharmacy benefit managers are “cloaked in secrecy and opacity,” said FTC Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya, adding that for most Americans, “pharmacy middlemen control what medicine you get, how you get it, when you get it, and how much you pay for it,” she said, as quoted by Reuters.
In a statement, FTC Chair Lina Khan said the probe is expected to take months and should result in companies’ practices becoming more transparent.
In statements, CVS and Prime Therapeutics representatives said they intend to cooperate with the probe.
However, pharmacy benefit managers trade group the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association defended the industry.
“We are confident that any examination of pharmacy benefit managers will validate that PBMs are reducing prescription drug costs for consumers,” said president JC Scott in a statement.
“Drug manufacturer price-setting is the root cause of high drug costs. The most effective study of issues around drug costs for consumers would examine the entire supply chain,” Scott added.