Pharmacy benefit managers next up to testify in US Senate hearings on drug pricing

The US Senate Committee on Finance asked executives from five pharmacy benefit manager (PBMs), including CVS Caremark and UnitedHealth's OptumRx unit, to testify at a hearing on April 3 on drug pricing in the country. The hearing will be the third in a series examining prescription drug costs, following hearings on January 29 and February 26.

"Middlemen in the health care industry owe patients and taxpayers an explanation of their role," remarked Senate Finance Committee chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking member Ron Wyden, adding "there's far too much bureaucracy and too little transparency." The other PBMs invited to the hearing include Cigna, Humana and Prime Therapeutics.

Grassley and Wyden said "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." At the second hearing, executives from drugmakers including AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck & Co., Pfizer, Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson continued to blame PBMs and insurers for keeping negotiated discounts on prescription drugs for themselves rather than passing them on to patients.

For related analysis, see ViewPoints: Pharma gets what it needs from Senate hearing.

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