FTC expands PBM probe

The Federal Trade Commission is widening its inquiry into the pharmacy benefit manager industry to include two group purchasing organizations that negotiate drug rebates on behalf of PBMs. 

The commission on May 17 requested Zinc Health Services and Ascent Health Services provide records on their business practices within 90 days, according to a news release from the FTC.

Zinc operates as the GPO for CVS Caremark while Ascent is the GPO for Express Scripts, Prime Therapeutics, Envolve Pharmacy Solutions and Humana Pharmacy Solutions. The GPOs negotiate rebates with drugmakers and create contracts to govern such rebates.

The FTC first launched an inquiry into PBM practices last June, targeting the six largest PBMs in the U.S. The three largest entities — Aetna's CVS Caremark, Cigna's Express Scripts and UnitedHealth's Optum — account for about 79 percent of the PBM market. 

The expanded probe came the same day the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health unanimously passed a bill that would impose new transparency rules for PBMs. 

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