In his latest column for Chain Drug Review, NPC President and CEO John M. O’Brien points to the need for “greater transparency in the pharmacy benefit manager-led rebate system, a system that is chock-full of perverse incentives that lead to roadblocks for patients and frustrations for pharmacists.”
O’Brien’s column previews comments that NPC will submit next month to the Federal Trade Commission. FTC has called for public input about PBM policies and practices, allowing the agency to better study what PBMs do and ideally, provide insights into delivering financial relief for patients at the pharmacy counter. Patients often face challenges in obtaining their medicines thanks to an opaque pricing system of fees, formularies and rebates that frustrates pharmacists and, more importantly, hurts patients.
O’Brien noted that beyond rebates, another area where greater transparency would significantly aid the development of thoughtful solutions is the federal government’s 340B program, created so hospitals and health centers that serve low-income patients could keep costs as low as possible in part by purchasing medications at significant discounts. To date, there has been little data to show whether the drugs being provided by pharmaceutical companies for next to no cost are being dispensed to the intended beneficiaries of the program, and some pharmacies are keeping the full-price payments from other patients for those medicines.
“The 340B program’s original design is well-intentioned, but policymakers desperately need better data and more transparency to make sure the program can be sustainable long-term,” O’Brien wrote. “Better data, better evidence and more transparency can only benefit the people the health care system is supposed to help: patients.”