Senate panel to hear from pharmacy middlemen on drug prices

Senate panel to hear from pharmacy middlemen on drug prices
© Stefani Reynolds

The Senate Finance Committee said Thursday that it has secured commitments from executives of five major pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to testify next month about the high costs of prescription drugs.

Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyBottom Line Overnight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill MORE (R-Iowa) and ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill Senate passes bipartisan IRS modernization bill MORE (D-Ore.) said executives from Cigna, CVS, Humana, OptumRx and Prime Therapeutics have agreed to appear on April 9.

The hearing will be the third time the Finance Committee has heard about drug prices.

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Both lawmakers have been critical of PBMs, which are often referred to as “middlemen.” PBMs administer prescription drug plans for large employers and are tasked with negotiating discounts on drugs with pharmaceutical firms and insurers.

“Middlemen in the health care industry owe patients and taxpayers an explanation of their role. There’s far too much bureaucracy and too little transparency getting in the way of affordable, quality health care,” Grassley and Wyden said in a joint statement. “We’ve heard from pharmaceutical companies and it’s only fair that the committee has the opportunity to ask questions of other players in the health care supply chain.”

Members of the Finance Committee grilled drug company executives last month about their role in rising costs, an issue that has elicited outrage from the American public and bipartisan members of Congress.

The drug price wars have featured significant intra-industry finger-pointing, and the February hearing was no different. The drug company executives did not commit to lowering list prices, instead blaming the convoluted system of PBMs and insurers for not passing savings on to customers.

Four of the country’s largest PBMs are also now integrated with health insurance companies.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump tweets ICE will begin removing 'millions' of undocumented migrants MORE has made lowering drug costs a key issue, while Democrats in Congress and on the campaign trail are working overtime to show they can lead on the issue.