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 GrassleyChuck GrassleySenate antitrust bill has serious ramifications for consumers and small businesses Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two Senate Judiciary Committee to debate key antitrust bill MORE (R-Iowa) and ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSanders, 50 Democrats unveil bill to send N95 masks to all Americans Manchin told White House he would back version of billionaire tax: report Democrats look to scale back Biden bill to get it passed 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 TrumpSanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown Laura Ingraham 'not saying' if she'd support Trump in 2024 The Hill's 12:30 Report: Djokovic may not compete in French Open over vaccine requirement 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.