National Consumers League calls on Administration to swiftly address PBMs’ role in diving up drug costs

For immediate release: February 3, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, 207-2832

Washington, DC—Washington, DC – The National Consumers League encourages the Biden Administration to continue work on meaningful reforms that help drive down consumer out-of-pocket costs of medicines. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Monday announced the decision to delay a final rule on pharmaceutical rebates that would address critical issues in our healthcare system. The rule aims to lower out-of-pocket costs for consumers by eliminating anti-kickback safe harbors for drug rebates and offering them as direct-to-consumer discounts.

As HHS has demonstrated, the rebates, discounts, and fees negotiated between pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are rarely used to lower consumer out-of-pocket costs for medications. According to the new Senate Finance Committee report, some PBMs receive as much as 70 percent of insulin’s list price—demonstrating that PBMs can increase their profits when list prices are higher. By passing PBM rebates along to patients, savings at the pharmacy counter could be significant.

The following statement is attributable to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

This delay is a major and preventable setback for consumers. We could be one step closer to significantly lowering out-of-pocket costs, but the government has delayed action. As we continue to face a global pandemic and economic challenges, it’s absolutely essential that we put the interests of consumers above all else—including PBMs.

“We must fix our broken drug pricing process, and HHS has identified one major flaw. The discounts these manufacturers offer to PBMs aren’t passed along to consumers as they should be. And PBMs continue to increase their fees, driving costs up even further. This rule would ensure that consumers—not large, corporate PBMs—save money on the medications they need.

Consumers deserve better, and NCL is committed to encouraging meaningful PBM reforms as soon as possible.

About the National Consumers League (NCL)
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit