WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) – The Skenderian family has been in the pharmacy business for about 80 years. Today, Joe and his brothers operate Skenderian Apothecary in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Skenderian: “We have the same pharmacists that have been working here, some of us for 20 or 30 years and, of course, some of the patients go back to my grandfather. And so we see multiple generations and we really do get to know them.”
Even with all that history, he has a hard time answering one of the most perplexing questions in modern medicine: how are prescription drugs priced?
Skenderian: “Pricing in the pharmacy industry, it would take more time than we would ever have to cover in an afternoon and it really does take a book to go over how convoluted it is.”
We wondered if the pharmaceutical industry could explain it simply, so we asked its trade group, PhRMA, to explain how medicine is priced. The group declined to be interviewed but sent us a video.
Video: “First the drug company sets the price. But they don’t sell directly to patients. They sell to drug wholesalers who then resell to pharmacies where you buy them, usually paying a small co-pay instead of the actual price of the drug.”
Where it really gets complicated is when it comes to the mysterious middlemen between the drug makers and the pharmacies: giant companies called pharmacy benefit managers. They’re hired by groups offering insurance, whether they’re company employers, unions or the government.
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