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 GrassleyOvernight Energy: Democrats unveil draft climate bill | Plan aims for carbon neutrality by 2050 | GOP senators press IRS on electric vehicle tax credit GOP senator: John Bolton should go public with what he knows GOP senators press IRS on enforcement of electric vehicle tax credit MORE (R-Iowa) and ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTax season could bring more refund confusion Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges Wyden vows push to force release of Khashoggi assessment 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 TrumpCNN's Don Lemon explains handling of segment after Trump criticism NPR reporter after Pompeo clash: Journalists don't interview government officials to score 'political points' Lawyer says Parnas can't attend Senate trial due to ankle bracelet 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.