The US Senate Finance Committee has invited executives from five major pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to testify about the rising prescription medicine costs in the country.
Senate chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking member Ron Wyden sent letters to Cigna, CVS (Caremark and Health), Humana, OptumRx and Prime Therapeutics, inviting them to a drug pricing hearing on 3 April.
PBMs negotiate drug benefits for employers and health plans with manufacturers, as well as operate mail-order pharmacies, noted Reuters.
Pharmaceutical companies cite pressure to provide rebates to PBMs as a reason behind raising the prices of their medicines.
Grassley and Wyden said: “Middlemen in the health care industry owe patients and taxpayers an explanation of their role. There’s far too much bureaucracy and too little transparency getting in the way of affordable, quality health care.
“Every part of the industry has a role to play in lowering prescription drug prices. Witnesses from these companies should come prepared to provide real information and discuss real solutions.”
This would be the committee’s third hearing on drug prices this year. The first hearing on 29 January was followed by a second on 26 February.
Executives from seven major pharmaceutical companies – AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, AbbVie and Merck, testified during the second hearing.
By the end of the hearing, nearly all executives said that removal of discounts given to PBMs would help in lowering drug prices for patients.
Both Democrats and Republicans in the US are taking a similar stance on the increasing drug prices in the country.
Lowering prices is an important issue for President Donald Trump, who pressured drugmakers, most notably Pfizer, to postpone their planned price hikes.
Furthermore, US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) proposed a new rule last month to end drug rebates and push discounts directly to patients.