Reform would reveal drugmaker-PBM deals

Drugmakers may think Washington's push for transparency has gone a bit too far. That's because the latest healthcare reform legislation includes a requirement for employee prescription drug plans to disclose its discount agreements with pharma. That would lay bare any deals drugmakers offer PBMs, and reveal a lot about which drugs companies are trying hardest to push.

Government types see that revelation as a way to help hold down healthcare costs. "We want to know exactly how much is paid for those drugs and that's a hard thing to catch," Norbert Vint, a deputy inspector general for the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees health benefits for federal workers, told Bloomberg. Vint's boss, OPM's inspector general, has said that lack of transparency "invites bad pricing and contracting practices," and he questions whether drug costs would have grown by 13.5 percent since 1999 if PBMs were truly effective.

But CVS Caremark chief Thomas Ryan predicted that the provision would be dropped from reform plans. Ryan, who runs the biggest PBM and pharmacy chain in the U.S., said he expects the Congressional Budget Office to find that requiring disclosure would raise costs, not cut them. Publicizing discounts won't encourage drugmakers to offer their best deals, he said during an earnings conference call (as reported by Bloomberg). What do you think?

- read the Bloomberg article