Rep. Collins leads anti-PBM 'rant' on House floor, introduces controversial drug price 'transparency' bill

Rep. Doug Collins House floor speech, March 1, 2017
Rep. Doug Collins House floor speech, March 1, 2017 |

U.S. Congressmen Doug Collins (R-GA) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA) last week introduced a bill -- H.R. 1316, the Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act -- that they say would "require greater transparency from pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs)."

In introducing the bill, the congressmen, along with Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) and others, took to the House floor to deliver what Drug Channels' Dr. Adam Fein referred to as a "60-minute rant" against PBMs.

Pointing out that Collins said PBMs engage in "monopolistic, terrorist kind of ways," Fein asked, "Terrorists? Really?!? I wonder how ISIS feels about this comparison."

Fein said that the congressmen's speeches provided an "enlightening tour through the usual grievances and conspiracy theories about PBMs" and he noted they provided an "avalanche of over-the-top criticisms and ad hominem attacks."

In a press statement announcing his legislation, Collins said that "the lack of transparency in their (PBM) operations has allowed them to control the market unjustly, with the result that these companies withhold savings that they have promised to pass on.”

The PBM industry, however, blasted the bill as promoting "new government mandates" that would increase prescription drug costs.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), the PBM's industry trade association representing, said the Collins/Loebsack bill would "gut" the use of Maximum Allowable Cost (MAC) lists, which the group says "are a key cost-control reimbursement strategy used to ensure consumers – and the federal government – don’t overpay for generic drugs."

The group says that forty-five state Medicaid programs use MAC lists, and the represent the "maximum amount" a health plan will reimburse drugstores for generic drugs, "based on prevailing market conditions."

“Now is not the time for new government mandates that raise prescription drug costs and undermine competition,” said PCMA President Mark Merritt.

Merritt's group also claimed the legislation would "risk patient safety" by threatening the use of mail-service pharmacies. Those pharmacies, said PCMA, are utilized by people with "chronic conditions" like high blood pressure or rheumatoid arthritis. 

Rep. Carter, a pharmacist, joined Collins in supporting the legislation in the congressman's initial media statement.

“I have always said that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and that is what this critical legislation will do with prescription drug pricing," added Carter.

In December 2016, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Carter was "under scrutiny for co-sponsoring legislation that could benefit his pharmacy business."

Additional H.R. 1316 co-sponsors include Reps. Brian Babin (R-Texas), Rod Blum (R-Iowa), John Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), and John Sarbanes (D-Md.).

The National Community Pharmacists Association has publicly endorsed the legislation.

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Organizations in this story

Drug Channels 1515 Market St Philadelphia, PA - 19102

Pharmaceutical Care Management Association 325 7th St NW Washington, DC - 20004

U.S. Representative Doug Collins (GA-9) 210 Washington Street Northwest Gainesville, GA - 30501