June 25, 2020

(Washington, D.C.) — As employers confront a challenging economic environment and are examining options to both reduce costs and improve health care quality for workers, a national survey of benefit managers and human resources directors from North Star Opinion Research finds that the vast majority say that programs implemented by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are effective at reducing drug costs for their organization.

Overall, more than nine in 10 (93 percent) are satisfied with their PBM, including more than a third who are “very satisfied.”

The poll is of benefit managers and human resources directors who work for companies with 1,000 or more employees, have at least 1,000 individuals under coverage, and have an annual prescription drug spend of over one million dollars.

“This new research underscores that employers value their PBMs,” said Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) President and CEO JC Scott. “PBMs and their tools have been critical for protecting patient access and for making prescription drugs as affordable as possible during the COVID-19 public health emergency and the resulting economic downturn.”

“Our survey finds that benefit managers are overwhelmingly satisfied with their organization’s PBM, saying that the contracts are transparent, and that PBM programs are effective at reducing their organization’s drug costs,” said Dan Judy, Vice President at North Star Opinion Research.

Key findings from this survey include: 

  1. More than nine in ten are satisfied with their PBM.  Ninety-three percent of respondents are satisfied with their PBM, including 35 percent who are “very satisfied.”  Just four percent are dissatisfied.
  2. Over four-fifths say that their company’s contract with its PBM is transparent.  Eighty-two percent of respondents say that their contract is transparent, with 40 percent saying it is “very transparent.”
  3. Majorities report stable costs for prescription drugs overall, including for mail-order drugs.  Fifty-nine percent of respondents say that the amount of money their company spends on prescription drugs has held steady over the last year, and 54 percent expect their company spending on mail-order prescriptions to be about the same next year.
  4. The vast majority say that PBM programs are effective at reducing drug costs for their organization.  Eighty-one percent of respondents say that a preferred retail pharmacy network helps reduce drug costs, compared to 81 percent for a tiered formulary that encourages the use of generics, biosimilars and lower-cost brands; 79 percent for real-time benefits tools for prescribers and patients; 74 percent for a mail-order requirement for maintenance drugs; and 70 percent for utilization management tools like prior authorization and step therapy.