The FTC Plans to Sue Major U.S. Health Companies Over Medication Prices

The FTC Plans to Sue Major U.S. Health Companies Over Medication Prices

The Federal Trade Commission is gearing up to file lawsuits against three of the largest U.S. health companies for their alleged practices as middlemen who negotiate prices for medications like insulin. According to a source familiar with the matter, the suits will target UnitedHealth Group’s Optum Rx, CVS Health’s Caremark, and Cigna’s Express Scripts. These companies, which are either owned by or connected to health insurers, are being accused of inflating costs for patients through their business practices related to rebates they broker with drug manufacturers.

Response From the Health Companies

In response to the impending lawsuits, a spokesperson from CVS Caremark stated that they have worked diligently to make insulin more affordable for all Americans with diabetes. They also mentioned their commitment to protecting American businesses, unions, and patients from rising prescription drug prices. Express Scripts, another company facing legal action, defended themselves by pointing out that drug prices are ultimately set by the manufacturers. They claimed to be working to combat high prices in the pharmaceutical industry and lower costs for patients and their health plans.

The FTC’s investigation into insulin prices not only targets the pharmacy benefit managers but also takes a look at drug manufacturers. The interim report released by the FTC criticized the three largest PBMs for manipulating the drug supply chain in a way that benefits themselves at the expense of smaller, independent pharmacies and U.S. patients. The report highlighted that six of the largest PBMs handle nearly 95% of all prescriptions filled in the country, shedding light on the power these companies hold in the market.

Within the drug supply chain, there seems to be a blame game between manufacturers and middlemen. PBMs argue that high drug prices are the responsibility of the manufacturers, while drugmakers point to rebates and fees collected by PBMs as factors that force them to increase list prices for their products. The ongoing debate between these two parties has caught the attention of the Biden administration and Congress, who are pushing for more transparency in PBM operations as part of efforts to address the affordability of prescription drugs for Americans.

Impact on Patients

The high costs of prescription drugs, especially insulin, have been a significant burden on many Americans. Data shows that on average, patients in the U.S. pay two to three times more for prescription drugs compared to patients in other developed nations. President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which caps insulin prices for Medicare beneficiaries at $35 per month, is a step towards addressing this issue. However, the policy does not currently extend to patients with private insurance, leaving a gap in affordability for many individuals.

The upcoming lawsuits against major health companies by the FTC shed light on the complex dynamics within the pharmaceutical industry. While PBMs, drug manufacturers, and policymakers continue to debate the root causes of high drug prices, it is ultimately the patients who bear the financial brunt. As efforts are being made to increase transparency and regulate the market, the hope is that these measures will lead to more affordable and accessible medications for all Americans.


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