Comer says his panel will investigate pharmacy benefit managers

As chair of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, Republican U.S. Rep. James Comer of Kentucky’s First District is launching an investigation into pharmacy benefit managers and how they affect health-care costs.

PBMs manage prescription-drug benefits for public and commercial insurers, acting as middlemen between them and drug companies. Comer said PBMs drive up drug prices, an assertion the industry disputes.

Comer, R-Frankfort and Tompkinsville, is asking the three largest PBMs, CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and OptumRx, to provide “documents, communications, and information related to their practices that are distorting the pharmaceutical market and limiting high-quality care for patients” by March 15.

When The Washington Post asked the companies for comment, they handed off to the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, their main lobby. It issued a statement saying, “While we appreciate — and share — the committee’s concern around drug pricing and existing gaps in affordability, we strongly urge members of the committee and Congress to stay focused on real solutions that are proven to reduce prescription-drug costs.” It said they “have a proven track record of reducing prescription-drug costs in federal programs.”

Comer is also seeking information from the Office of Personnel Management, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Defense Health Agency to determine PBMs’ impact on federal health-care programs.

One of Comer’s political allies, state Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, until recently led efforts in the state legislature to more tightly regulate PBMs.
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