The ‘vendors’ in HHS’ new drug pricing plan sound an awful lot like PBMs, experts say  | FierceHealthcare

Despite railing against the role of middlemen—namely pharmacy benefit managers—in rising drug prices, the Trump administration appears poised to introduce some of its own into the Part B program.

The Department of Health and Human Services unveiled its International Pricing Index (IPI) model last week, which aims to bring down the costs of pharmaceuticals in Medicare Part B by aligning those prices with what other countries pay.

A key element of the plan is to empower private sector vendors to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies and purchase their products to then distribute to providers. HHS Secretary Alex Azar said that the vendors will make it easier for hospitals and practices to manage their pharmacies and eliminate major upfront investments in these drugs.

“Our model will allow private vendors to take title to drugs and compete for business, letting physicians and hospitals get out of purchasing and holding drugs,” Azar said in a speech at the Brookings Institution on Friday. “Hospitals and physicians’ practices should be focused on caring for patients—not floating capital for pricey drugs.”

CMS Administrator Seema Verma and Azar have both emphasized GPOs and wholesalers as options since the IPI model was announced.

PBMs have been a prime target in the White House’s efforts to bring down drug prices. Critics of the current rebate structure say that PBMs operate in a space that’s too opaque, and that they pose a barrier to pharmaceutical companies lowering their prices.

Azar has offered split opinions on PBMs. At a Senate hearing on the administration’s “American Patients First” blueprint on drug prices, Azar said that PBMs would be critical partners in bringing down drug prices, and that they can perform better with some reform.

Azar also said, though, that PBMs are standing in the way of lowering list prices.

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The ‘vendors’ in HHS’ new drug pricing plan sound an awful lot like PBMs, experts say  | FierceHealthcare.