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FTC report: PBMs inflate drug costs, harm independent pharmacies

The country’s largest pharmacy benefit managers are contributing to a rise in prescription drug prices.

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Officials with American Pharmacy Cooperative, Inc. (APCI) have expressed strong approval of a U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report released today, which uncovers that the country’s largest pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are contributing to the rise in prescription drug prices and jeopardizing the survival of locally-owned pharmacies.

The report highlights that PBMs—intermediaries in the prescription supply chain—”are profiting by inflating drug costs and squeezing Main Street pharmacies.” FTC Chair Lina Khan emphasized in a statement that the report “lays out how dominant pharmacy benefit managers can hike the cost of drugs — including overcharging patients for cancer drugs.” She added that the report “also details how PBMs can squeeze independent pharmacies that many Americans — especially those in rural communities — depend on for essential care.”

APCI CEO Tim Hamrick commended the FTC’s efforts over the past two years in investigating abusive PBM practices, stating, “We applaud the hard work the FTC has done and are proud to have had the opportunity to provide insights into PBM practices to their team. Today’s report details what we have been saying for years: PBMs increase prescription prices for patients; cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year; and largely reimburse independent pharmacies below cost for medications, forcing locally-owned pharmacies to shutter their doors and reduce access for patients across the country.”

Hamrick also expressed eagerness to continue collaborating with the FTC and Congress to enact legislation aimed at protecting patients, taxpayers, and locally-owned pharmacies from PBM exploitation.

The FTC began its study into PBM practices in June 2022 and noted that “several of the PBMs that were issued orders have not been forthcoming and timely in their responses, and they still have not completed their required submissions, which has hindered the Commission’s ability to perform its statutory mission,” leading to the publication of this interim report.

Greg Reybold, APCI’s Vice President of Healthcare Policy, echoed the call for decisive congressional action, stating, “We hope that this report will compel Congress to act decisively to rein in PBM abuses. The status quo of large PBM unfair practices driving up drug costs and driving independent pharmacies to the brink must end. For that to happen, we need the FTC to take enforcement action and for Congress to pass sweeping PBM reform that takes away the ability of PBMs to set drug prices and to prey on patients, pharmacies, and taxpayers.”

As the debate over PBM practices continues, today’s FTC report marks a significant step towards increased scrutiny and potential reform in the pharmacy benefits sector, with independent pharmacies and patient advocacy groups closely monitoring the next moves from both the FTC and Congress.

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