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Express Scripts fires back on drug costs

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Drug spending increased 3.8% in 2016 for employers and health insurers that hired Express Scripts to manage drug costs for their commercially insured members, according to an annual report from the pharmacy benefits manager.

The big takeaway: Express Scripts cheered the findings as evidence their negotiations with drug companies and pharmacies kept drug spending lower than people might expect. The report is also being used as a way to push back against drug companies that have blamed pharmacy benefits managers for the drug pricing problems. "We don't do anything to set prices for the drug manufacturers. They do," Dr. Glen Stettin, chief innovation officer at Express Scripts, told Axios.

Yes, but: This report did not reveal anything about the rebates Express Scripts collects, nor did it touch Medicare drug spending. A recent federal government report showed that Medicare Part D rebates to middlemen were eating up a much larger chunk of total drug spending. Stettin said Express Scripts would release its own Medicare report soon, and it would disprove the "fallacy of rebates driving up the cost of medications."

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