Pharmacy middlemen testify at Senate drug price hearing

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Executives from five of the health care industry’s top pharmacy benefit management companies are set to testify Tuesday at a hearing on the rising cost of drug prices in the U.S. before the Senate Finance Committee.

Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and the panel’s top Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., are expected to grill pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, on the role they play in increasing drug prices.

Those who will testify include:

  • CVS Health Executive Vice President Derica Rice
  • OptumRx CEO John Prince
  • Cigna Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Steve Miller
  • Prime Therapeutics interim President Mike Kolar
  • Humana President of health care services William Fleming

PBMs are the drug supply middlemen used to help insurance companies negotiate lower drug costs. Drugmakers arrange discounts, called rebates, with PBMs so they can secure a spot for their drugs on a PBM’s formulary. That discount is meant to be passed down to the consumer, but critics assert that instead of lowering costs for customers, PBMs instead pocket the money.

Expensive costs have become a rare bipartisan issue for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as they look to decrease drug prices, with the Trump administration making a number of proposals to lower costs.

In February, executives from seven drugmakers testified before the Finance Committee, pitching ideas on how to cut prices. The companies — AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer and Sanofi — blamed the PBMs.

However, PBMs insist their goal is to lower prices and are expected to claim drugmakers are to blame for high costs.

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