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First Look: Senators want update on FTC probe of PBMs

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Jan 23, 2024
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Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

A bipartisan group of senators wants an update from the Federal Trade Commission on its probe of pharmacy benefit managers, according to a letter from 14 lawmakers first shared with Axios.

Why it matters: The FTC has been studying business practices of the six largest PBMs for a year and half now — including clawbacks charged to pharmacies, reimbursements, and the rebate systems set up by drug manufacturers — but it hasn't produced any findings.

  • Congress is still expected to require changes to PBM practices this year, though action won't happen until the next government funding deadline, at earliest.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee also advanced a bill in September that would require the FTC to study pharmacy benefit consolidation and send a report to Congress within one year.

What they're saying: The letter, led by Sens. Chuck Grassley and Maria Cantwell, urges the FTC to complete its study "in a timely manner" and to release a status report in the interim.

  • "A commitment to a timely study and interim progress report will provide transparency, insight about possible competitive harms, and inform the responsiveness and cooperation of impacted parties," the letter says.

The FTC can subpoena information. In May, it expanded its study to look into two companies that negotiate rebates on behalf of PBMs.

The other side: An FTC spokesperson told Axios the study is ongoing and would not comment on when findings could be released.

  • It's not unusual for FTC studies to take years. The agency took three years to complete research into businesses that acquire patents from third parties, in connection with IP litigation reform.
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