The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is considering the use of a rarely used anti-price discrimination law to potentially crack down on dominant companies’ unfair use of market power. The Federal Trade Commission is ramping up enforcement against illegal bribes and rebate schemes involving pharmacy benefits managers, it announced in a June enforcement policy statement.
It gave as an example the sky-rocketing cost of insulin. In its statement it explained its action this way:
“We [are taking this action] by highlighting insulin, which many have cited as one prominent example of a prescription drug impacted by high rebates and fees to PBMs and other intermediaries. Insulin is a life-sustaining treatment for roughly 8 million Americans who rely on it to control diabetes. Research indicates that the wholesale price of insulin nearly tripled between 2009 and 2017, increasing out-of-pocket costs for both insured and uninsured patients. The list price for a year’s supply of insulin has risen to nearly $6,000, with out-ofpocket costs for insulin alone averaging $1,288 for uninsured patients and $613 for insured patients as of 2017.
Patients with diabetes have described how rising insulin costs have rendered this essential product unaffordable and harmed them in different ways. 10 The increased cost of insulin has caused many patients to ration it, 11 causing suffering, severe illness, and death.
In addition to other factors, some have suggested that high rebates and fees to PBMs and other intermediaries may incentivize higher list prices for insulin and discourage coverage of the lowest-cost insulin products.”
TSCL hopes that between legislative action in Congress and regulatory actions by various parts of the Executive branch, the costs of prescription drugs will finally begin to come down.