New FTC Commissioners Could Signal Greater PBM Oversight

By John Coster, RPh., Ph.D.

The U.S. Senate’s recent confirmation of two individuals – Julie Brill and Edith Ramirez – to serve on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) might presage more agency scrutiny of pharmacy benefit managers.

In particular, Ms. Brill played a central role in a number of the multi-state enforcement actions that resulted in PBMs paying hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to patients, plans and the government. She also was key to Vermont’s PBM transparency law.

NCPA supported the nominations. This week Bruce Roberts wrote to Ms. Brill and Ms. Ramirez to congratulate them on their confirmation, saying it could signal the “start of a new era at the FTC—one that will be distinguished by its pro-consumer, anti-trust agenda that will in turn spur more responsible corporate conduct.”

“NCPA has long championed the need for both federal and state oversight of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) due to the problems our members and their patients continue to face in dealing with these largely unregulated entities,” Roberts continues in his letter.  “In years past, when state legislatures have expressed interest in curbing questionable conduct by the PBMs, the FTC has advised against imposing regulations or transparency on PBMs.  Moving forward we are encouraged that the FTC will now gain greater insight into the immense influence that PBMs bear on overall health care spending given their broad abilities to manipulate drug prices and will in turn fully support the efforts of states to reign in suspect PBM practices.”

The addition of Ms. Brill and Ms. Ramirez can only help ensure that the FTC’s ongoing investigation into allegations of anti-consumer, anticompetitive conduct by CVS Caremark is as thorough as possible and that the agency gives future proposed PBM mergers a closer review.

“We look forward to welcoming the newly confirmed Federal Trade Commissioners Julie Brill and Edith Ramirez,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement. “They are both exceptionally talented and committed, and will bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and new energy to the Commission.”

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