FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb criticized drug rebates Thursday. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said at an industry conference Thursday that the government could re-examine the federal law that says prescription drug rebates aren't considered kickbacks.

Why it matters: Gottlieb said the nation's rising drug prices are due in part to "the system of rebates between payers and manufacturers." Making rebates illegal would take a hatchet to companies like pharmacy benefit managers, but it's unclear how it would affect what the country ultimately pays for drugs.

The big picture: Drug companies continue to raise the prices of their medications, although industry data show they are offering bigger rebates back to PBMs and health insurers in exchange for favorable placements on their covered drug lists.

  • Eliminating rebates would get at the serious problem of some middlemen manipulating drug prices for their own gain.
  • A major class-action suit that targets insulin makers and PBMs argues rebates are nothing more than kickbacks.
  • Changing federal kickback law presumably would force health insurers and PBMs to drive for harder bargains instead of running to whichever drug company offered the most appetizing rebate.

Yes, but: Gottlieb's statement is significant, but it also shows how he and Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar still would prefer to reform the supply chain of prescription drugs. Even without rebates, pharmaceutical companies would have the power to charge whatever they want.

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The murder hornets are here

A braver man than me holds a speciment of the Asian giant hornet. Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Entomologists in Washington state on Thursday discovered the first Asian giant hornet nest in the U.S.

Why it matters: You may know this insect species by its nom de guerre: "the murder hornet." While the threat they pose to humans has been overstated, the invading hornets could decimate local honeybee populations if they establish themselves.

Biden is highest-spending political candidate on TV ads

Joe Biden. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

After spending an additional $45.2 million on political ads this week, former Vice President Joe Biden has become the highest-spending political candidate on TV ads ever, according to data from Advertising Analytics.

By the numbers: In total, the Biden campaign has spent $582.7 million on TV ads between 2019 and 2020, officially surpassing Michael Bloomberg's record spend of roughly $582 million. Biden's spend includes his primary and general election advertising.