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 GrassleyTen post-Mueller questions that could turn the tables on Russia collusion investigators On The Money: Conservatives rally behind Moore for Fed | White House interviewing other candidates | Trump, Dems spar on Tax Day | Budget watchdogs bemoan 'debt denialism' GOP senators double down on demand for Clinton email probe documents MORE (R-Iowa) and ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Lawmakers, tech set for clash over AI Overnight Energy: Collins receives more donations from Texas oil, gas industry than from Maine residents | Interior chief left meetings off schedule | Omar controversy jeopardizes Ocasio-Cortez trip to coal mine 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 TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel 'inappropriate' press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of 'unprecedented steps' to 'spin' Mueller report 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.