Mail-Order Pharmacies Owned by Pharmacy Benefit Managers Cost Effective, FTC Study Finds
Mail-order pharmacies owned by pharmacy benefit managers provide "generally" cost-effective prescription drug plans, according to a study released Tuesday by the Federal Trade Commission, the Wall Street Journal reports (Martinez, Wall Street Journal, 9/7). The study compared the cost of drugs from retail pharmacists, mail-order pharmacies not owned by PBMs and mail-order pharmacies owned by PBMs (CQ HealthBeat, 9/6).
In the report, which was mandated by 2003 Medicare law, FTC found that for "large PBMs, average total prices in 2002 and 2003 at PBM-owned mail-order pharmacies typically were lower than at mail-order pharmacies not owned by the PBMs" (Wall Street Journal, 9/6). The study found that generic substitution rates were the same at both PBM-owned mail-order pharmacies and chain drugstores not owned by PBMs. FTC also found that PBMs rarely switched patients from one brand-name drug to another or to a generic drug.
John Rector, general counsel for the National Community Pharmacists Association, said the report did not address the negative effects of PBM-owned mail-order pharmacies on consumers (CQ HealthBeat, 9/6). The largest U.S. PBMs are Medco Health Solutions, Caremark Rx and Express Scripts, all of which own their own mail-order pharmacies.
FTC said the report did "not answer whether each plan sponsor has negotiated the best deal possible or whether each PBM has fulfilled its contractual obligations due to each of its plan sponsor clients" (Wall Street Journal, 9/7).
The report is available online.