Despite their key role in controlling prescription drug costs, some pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are making large profits on generic drugs, according to a study.
Researchers at Creighton University in Omaha said some PBMs serve a valuable function as the middlemen between pharmacies and the purchasers of pharmacy benefit plans, while others create a price spread that benefits no one.
For example, for the generic stomach medication ranitidine, one PBM billed an employer more than $200 but paid the pharmacy $15 for the same drug. In the case of the blood-pressure medicine atenolol, a PBM billed the company $80 and paid the pharmacy $7, they said.
The researchers suggested that PBMs should be paid capitation-based administration fees rather than on a transaction-based, rebate-driven basis.
In a press release, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, which represents PBMs, said the study was based on very limited data, countered by other studies and an attack funded by the retail-pharmacy industry. The association said retail pharmacies object to PBMs' role in the new Medicare reform law.
The study appears in the January/February issue of the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, available online to subscribers.