PBMs: Is the edifice crumbling–not yet!

Conundrum—It was reported in their most recent 10K that what Medco got in rebates from manufacturers went down, and that really hit profit from that sector of their business in the most recent quarter. But their overall profits went up?  How did they manage it?

Well I know (and told a private client all about it in research report) and have given you some hints before about where they make their money. But now Barbara Martinez at the WSJ has figured it out—their margins on generics are huge. And of course they control that channel by pushing their clients into mail order where they can make the generic substitutions as soon as the rebates go away. So the more generics they sell, and the more mail order they sell, the higher their margins are —even if they keep less of the rebate on the branded product.

And, as the WSJ article says, luckily for them their clients are too dumb to figure it out. (Other than Horizon Blues of New Jersey which is suing Medco)

But wait there’s a little more. Remember last year? That’s when the trade association of the big PBMs (PCMA) put out a report explaining what great savings mail order provided for purchasers of drugs. But the entire report neglected to mention that mail-order pharmacies are significantly more profitable then regular pharmacies, and it further neglected that the owners of the major mail-order houses are, of course, the big PBMs.

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