Making Pharmacy Benefit Managers Transparent Would Save Billions

June 26, 2009

(As submitted to Washington Post)

To the Editor:

Federal employees and taxpayers will continue paying inflated prescription drug costs until pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are reined in ("Complaints Fill Hearing About Federal Employees' Health Plan," June 25, 2009). PBMs charge plan sponsors (governments, employers, etc.) excessive fees and are allowed to keep far too much of the discounts they negotiate - with no oversight or auditing.

By contrast, the military's TRICARE program employs administrators that pass most, if not all, negotiated savings on to the plan sponsor. Medicare, for one, recently acted to curb PBM abuses. In Texas alone, researchers identified hundreds of millions of dollars in savings by requiring PBMs covering state and university employees to be transparent.

Congress—particularly Congressmen Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)—should be commended for working to eliminate this wasteful spending from the Feds' health plan. But it's just the tip of the iceberg. Americans would save billions annually if PBM transparency requirements were enacted through health care reform or other legislation.

Bruce T. Roberts
Executive Vice President and CEO
National Community Pharmacists Association
Alexandria, VA

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