PBMs: Caremark article questions the role of the PBM

I’m not a great believer in the effectiveness of PBMs to hold down drug prices. My evidence is that since PBMs have become important drug prices and the share of health spent on them have gone through the roof. Of course, no one can prove that they wouldn’t have gone higher without PBMs in the picture. But in the middle of this rather fun hatchet job on Caremark from Melissa David at The Street.com there’s this great stat she’s dug up:

The companies claim to save their clients large sums of money by using their bulk purchasing power to negotiate deep discounts from drug manufacturers. But a growing crowd of industry critics, pointing to the rocketing cost of prescription drugs, have voiced their doubts. They believe the PBMs are unfairly keeping much of the savings for themselves. Indeed, a recent survey by Hewitt Associates showed that only 53% of employers believe that PBMs lower prescription drug costs — and that nearly one-quarter believe the PBMs raise the costs instead.

So 25% of their customers think that PBMs do the exact opposite of what they say they do. And don’t forget that next year the taxpayer (i.e. us) becomes their biggest customer.

Meanwhile the NY Times reports on a new initiative where 30 big employers who use Medco have bullied the PBM into letting them monitor the inner workings of its deals with its suppliers. Presumably the members of the "RxCollaborative" are not as happy as they might be about how they’ve been treated so far.

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