Salem Radio Network News Sunday, June 26, 2022

Business

U.S. probes how pharmacies set drug prices as costs rise

(Reuters) -The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has opened a probe into how big pharmacy benefit managers like CVS Caremark affect pricing and patients’ access to prescription drugs at a time when costs of some medicines, even older ones like insulin, have skyrocketed, the agency said on Tuesday.

As part of the probe, the FTC is sending demands for information to CVS Health Corp’s Caremark, Humana Inc, Cigna Corp’s Express Scripts and UnitedHealth Group’s OptumRx, among others.

Pharmacy benefit managers are usually hired to negotiate with drug makers for rebates and lower fees and to reimburse pharmacies for prescriptions that they dispense.

But FTC Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya said on Twitter that the practices of these intermediaries are “cloaked in secrecy and opacity”, adding that for most Americans, “pharmacy middlemen control what medicine you get, how you get it, when you get it, and how much you pay for it.”

The study is expected to make companies’ practices more transparent, detailing their impact on pharmacies, payers, doctors, and patients, FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement.

Some of the biggest PBMs are owned by big health insurers or own mail order or specialty pharmacies.

The FTC said in a statement that it will ask about fees charged to independent pharmacies and reimbursements that are then clawed back from them, efforts to steer consumers to PBM-owned pharmacies and their specialty drug policies.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington and Leroy Leo in Bengaluru; Editing by Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker)

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