Mar 13, 2019 - Health Care

5 PBMs called for next round of Capitol Hill hearings

Sens. Ron Wyden and Chuck Grassley. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Senate Finance Committee leaders have asked 5 pharmacy benefit managers to come up to Capitol Hill for a hearing, as a follow-up to the panel's largely anticlimactic sit-down with pharmaceutical CEOs last month.

Why it matters: Pharma used its hearing to point the finger at PBMs. Now they may get a chance to defend themselves and try to shift the political blame back to pharma and its list prices.

Where it stands: Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) want to hear from Cigna, CVS Caremark, Humana, OptumRx and Prime Therapeutics. Despite the bipartisan tenor of the drug-pricing debate, agreement on actual policy remains hard to come by, at least for now.

  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing today on several bills designed to enhance competition — including the CREATES Act, which would improve generics' access to product samples.
  • But even those smaller-bore bills are controversial. "They're all partisan bills ... In their present form, they need work," Rep. Greg Walden said.

What we're hearing: As Vitals reported yesterday, President Trump's budget proposal revived a handful of policy ideas worth keeping an eye on as potential sources of compromise, including a new cap on seniors' out-of-pocket drug costs.

  • There's bipartisan interest in such a limit, but big differences on the details. Wyden has proposed a cap of $2,650, while Trump's version would effectively fall closer to $6,350, my colleague Caitlin Owens notes.
  • Grassley says he supports an out-of-pocket limit, but hasn't endorsed a specific plan.

Go deeper: Big Pharma won its last Capitol Hill hearing

What's next

Honoring Kobe Bryant: Sports stars, politicians and celebrities mourn NBA great

Kobe Bryant on court for the Los Angeles Lakers during the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Saturday Night, part of 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend at American Airlines Center in Dallas in February 2010. Photo: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Sports stars, politicians and celebrities paid tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a California helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others on Saturday. He was 41.

What they're saying: Lakers great Shaquille O'Neal said in an Instagram post of his former teammate, "There's no words to express the pain I'm going through now with this tragic and sad moment of losing my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie. I love you brother and you will be missed."

Bolton alleges in book that Trump tied Ukraine aid to investigations

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton alleges in his forthcoming book that the president explicitly told him "he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens," the New York Times first reported.

Why this matters: The revelations present a dramatic 11th hour turn in Trump's Senate impeachment trial. They directly contradict Trump's claim that he never tied the hold-up of Ukrainian aid to his demands for investigations into his political opponent Joe Biden.

Impeachment: Then & now

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We are living in a measurably different political and media landscape than when the Senate acquitted President Bill Clinton of impeachment charges in 1999.

The big picture: These dynamics are setting the pace as President Trump’s legal team speeds through arguments to seek a fast acquittal.