U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to launch an investigation into alleged predatory practices by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that he says have caused prescription drug prices to skyrocket.
Rep. Carter and U.S. Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-TN) requested the report in an 11-page, May 24 letter sent to FTC Chair Lina Khan as formal comments filed in the FTC’s Solicitation for Public Comments on the Business Practices of Pharmacy Benefit Managers and their Impact on Independent Pharmacies and Consumers.
“We offer informed and unique perspectives on these issues from our professional pharmacist backgrounds, and believe a FTC 6(b) investigation and analysis of the roles the largest and market-dominating PBMs play in U.S. pharmaceutical supply chains could not be more timely or necessary,” wrote Rep. Carter and his colleagues.
PBMs have grown into some of the largest, most profitable companies in the nation, according to the lawmakers, who wrote that PBMs act as middlemen between pharmacies, drug manufacturing companies, and health insurance plans to administer prescription drug benefits, and play a large role in determining which prescription drugs are covered by insurance plans and how much they cost.
“Right now, medications leave the manufacturer at one price then skyrocket before they reach the pharmacy and the PBMs refuse to explain why,” they wrote. “Patients deserve better.”
Specifically, PBMs increasingly employ a host of practices that result in higher prices for payers/consumers and eliminate opportunities to reduce overall costs, including anti-competitive practices, direct and indirect remuneration fees, and spread pricing, according to the lawmakers’ letter.
“Addressing anticompetitive PBM practices is essential to help ensure that beneficiaries maintain access to pharmacies that provide critical prescription drugs and other essential services like chronic and complex disease management, wellness and prevention services, vaccines, certain testing, and disease education,” Rep. Carter and his colleague wrote.
An FTC investigation is necessary to obtain an understanding of conflicts of interest, anti-competitive conduct and marketplace distortions that are causing prescription drug prices to continuously increase, as well as to provide meaningful analysis and recommendations for future legislation to lower prescription drug prices, better protect patients and safeguard competition, the members wrote.