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FTC orders more information from another group purchaser in study of PBMs


Trade group counters with new ad campaign, economic study about value of services.

federal trade commission ftc book: © Jon - stock.adobe.com

© Jon - stock.adobe.com

The government’s marketplace watchdog is expanding its investigation of pricing practices used by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this week announced it has issued a compulsory order to a third group purchasing organization (GPO) that negotiates prescription drug prices for PBMs.

Emisar Pharm Services LLC will be required to provide information and records on its business practices.

The order follows six earlier compulsory orders to the six largest PBMs and to two PBM-affiliated GPOs, Zinc Health Services LLC and Ascent Health Services LLC, according to FTC. Like those companies, “Emisar negotiates these rebates on behalf of OptumRx and, like OptumRx, is a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group,” according to FTC.

The company will have 90 days to respond.

Federal Trade Commissioners Lina M. Khan, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, and Alvaro Bedoya voted 3-0 to issue the order. Their announcement did not include accompanying statements about their decision.

FTC’s June 8 order is the latest step in months of federal government review of the role of PBMs in setting prescription drug prices, and being involved in the pharmaceutical sector and health care generally.

The same day, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) published an “Rx Research Corner” bulletin citing University of Chicago research that said PBM services have a value of $145 billion a year across the United States. PBM work includes negotiating drug prices, rewarding drug companies for innovation, managing pharmacy network participation for pharmacies, and promoting generic drugs for patients, the publication said.

On May 30, PCMA launched a new seven-figure advertising campaign to shift the blame to “Big Pharma” for “egregious pricing and anticompetitive practices” driving up drug prices.

“Lobbying groups for the pharmaceutical industry have spent tens of millions of dollars of paid advertising aimed at putting a target on the one check-and-balance on their pricing power – pharmacy benefit companies, who provide savings for patients, employers and plan sponsors – in order to keep prescription drug prices high,” PCMA President and CEO JC Scott said in a statement. “Misguided proposals targeting pharmacy benefits come straight from their playbook and are designed to undermine the one check-and-balance on drug companies’ pricing power.”

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