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Pharmaceutical executives appear before the Senate. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Pharmaceutical companies put a lot of the blame for high drug prices on pharmacy benefit managers. But big drug companies are also big employers — which means they rely on PBMs to manage their own health care benefits.

Why it matters: PBMs are part of the system, so it's not necessarily surprising drug companies use them. But it's not clear whether pharma companies are practicing what they preach on the details of PBM contracts and the way savings are distributed.

Between the lines: PBMs caught a lot of criticism from the 7 pharmaceutical executives who testified before a Senate committee last week about drug prices. So Axios asked those 7 companies about the pharmacy benefits they offer to their employees.

Like many large employers, they work with just 2 of the largest PBMs.

  • Bristol-Myers Squibb said it uses CVS Caremark. AbbVie and Pfizer declined to answer Axios' questions, but a search of AbbVie's and Pfizer's employee benefits shows they use CVS Caremark for their employees, dependents and retirees.
  • AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson both said they hire Express Scripts for their employee drug benefits. Merck and Sanofi declined to answer, but both companies appear to use Express Scripts.

The intrigue: When it comes to public policy, drugmakers argue PBMs' discounts should be delivered to customers at the pharmacy counter, rather than held back and used to reduce insurance premiums. But it's unclear whether that's how they operate.

  • Bristol-Myers Squibb said that "in lieu of receiving rebates back directly from CVS Caremark," its "employees, eligible dependents and retirees realize lower out-of-pocket amounts."
  • Johnson & Johnson was the only other company to somewhat address rebates, saying "any savings go back to our employees" by "lowering premiums and out-of-pocket costs."

Some companies, including Pfizer and Sanofi, cover 100% of the cost of their own brand-name drugs for employees, even if cheaper generic versions are available.

Go deeper

Updated 33 mins ago - World

In photos: Pope Francis spreads message of peace on first trip to Iraq

Iraqis dressed in traditional outfits greet Pope Francis upon his arrival at Erbil airport, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, on March 7. Photo: Safin Hamed/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis was on Sunday visiting northern areas of Iraq once held by Islamic State militants.

Why it matters: This is the first-ever papal trip to Iraq. The purpose of Francis' four-day visit is largely intended to reassure the country's Christian minority, who were violently persecuted by ISIS, which controlled the region from 2014-2017.

Cuomo faces fresh misconduct allegations from former aides

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February press conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was on Saturday facing fresh accusations of misconduct against his staff, including further allegations of inappropriate behavior against two more women. His office denies the claims.

Driving the news: The Washington Post reported Cuomo allegedly embraced an aide when he led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and that two male staffers who worked for him in the governor's office accused him of routinely berating them "with explicit language."

In photos: Protesters rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Chaz Neal, a Redwing community activist, outside the Minnesota Governor's residence during a protest in support of George Floyd in St.Paul, Minnesota, on March 6. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Dozens of protesters were rallying outside the Minnesota governor's mansion in St Paul Saturday, urging justice for George Floyd ahead of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start this Monday, with jury selection procedures.