Senate panel asks CVS in addition to various other middlemen to testify about drug prices

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) talks with reporters as he heads for a meeting at the U.S. Capitol October 02, 2018 in Washington, DC. 

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) talks with reporters as he heads for a meeting at the U.S. Capitol October 02, 2018 in Washington, DC. 

The Senate Finance Committee said Tuesday in which invited 5 major pharmacy benefit managers to testify before Congress about high prescription drug costs from the U.S.

Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa., in addition to Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the committee’s ranking member, asked Cigna, CVS, Humana, OptumRx in addition to Prime Therapeutics to testify on Capitol Hill on April 3. Both senators have been critical of PBMs, sometimes referred to as middlemen, which negotiate drug benefits with manufacturers for insurance plans in addition to employers.

“Middlemen from the health care industry owe patients in addition to taxpayers an explanation of their role. There’s far too much bureaucracy in addition to too little transparency getting from the way of affordable, quality health care,” Grassley in addition to Wyden said in a joint statement Tuesday. “We’ve heard via pharmaceutical companies in addition to in which’s only fair in which the committee has the opportunity to ask questions of various other players from the health care supply chain.”

CNBC has reached out to each company for comment.

High drug costs have become a rare bipartisan issue with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle demanding something be done. President Donald Trump has made lowering prices one of the key issues of his administration. Democrats are jockeying to prove they can lead reform.

Spending on prescription drugs from the U.S. increased to $333.4 billion in 2017, according to the latest data via the Centers for Medicare in addition to Medicaid Services.

The April hearing would certainly mark the committee’s third on drug prices This particular year. Late last month, the committee heard via executives of AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer in addition to Sanofi.

The pharma executives didn’t talk much about list prices. Instead, they blamed middlemen for pocketing discounts instead of passing them along to patients. They suggested improvements to Medicare, including capping the amount seniors would certainly pay for on their own at the pharmacy counter every year.

Grassley had hinted last month in which the committee’s drug pricing probe wouldn’t end with pharmaceutical companies.

The nation’s four largest PBMs are currently all integrated with health insurance firms, following the recent completion of CVS Health’s merger with Aetna in addition to Cigna’s acquisition of Express Scripts. UnitedHealth Group owns the OptumRX PBM in addition to Anthem will be launching its own unit IngenioRx.