ICYMI: Costello: Targeting Pharmacy Benefits Would Raise Drug Costs

In case you missed it, former U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District Ryan Costello discusses how recent legislation targeting pharmacy benefit companies will raise costs for taxpayers and patients and do nothing to address the root cause of high prices in a new op-ed.

The former Congressman notes that Big Pharma is behind the push targeting PBMs because they serve as the one real check against big pharmaceutical companies’ otherwise limitless pricing power. If pharmacy benefit companies are weakened by restricting the tools used to lower drug costs, Big Pharma has more power to keep drug costs high.

Costello cites an industry analysis that found PBMs lower drug costs by $148 billion annually. He writes:

“Targeting pharmacy benefits also does not address the actual problem that Americans face — drug companies keeping prices high by waylaying competition. Instead, Big Pharma is using the prescription drug affordability problem as an opportunity to try to bait and switch Congress into passing legislation that could actually increase costs for patients and employers by making it more challenging for pharmacy benefit companies to secure savings — all while boosting big drug company profits.”

Importantly, Costello also draws on his past experience on the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Committee and offers advice for current Members of Congress:

“To promote competition in the pharmaceutical industry, we need an approach that holds drug companies accountable.

Without PBMs standing up to Big Pharma to lower prices on behalf of consumers, Big Pharma would be left with even more power and discretion to increase the price of drugs.

This is exactly the opposite of the outcome all of us want — and it’s why legislation touting more ‘transparency’ for PBMs actually benefits Big Pharma and reduces the leverage used against Big Pharma to force them to lower prices.”

In the op-ed Costello warns lawmakers that so-called drug pricing legislation does nothing to actually lower drug costs.

“When Congress returns from recess, they’re expected to turn to legislation targeting pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that purports to lower prescription drug costs.

Unfortunately, the legislation could raise costs for patients and especially seniors when drug costs are already too expensive.

Lawmakers run the risk of undermining the effective, proven negotiating power of PBMs who reduce drug prices annually by more than $100 billion.” 

Costello goes on to highlight the value that pharmacy benefit companies provide for employers and patients:

“PBMs use several tools at every step of the supply chain to deliver savings for employers, including small businesses, and patients.  

For example, they are able to negotiate lower net costs for brand prescription drugs through rebates secured from manufacturers that any of their clients could not secure on their own without the scale made possible by the pharmacy benefit company.”

And they deliver results — pharmacy benefit companies save employers and patients 40-50 percent on prescription drug costs, compared to what they would spend without them, leading to more than $1,000 in savings per person each year.”

Read the full op-ed HERE.

See a recent PCMA blog highlighting pieces from Costello and another former Congressman warning Congress against advancing legislation targeting pharmacy benefit companies HERE.


See what more lawmakers have had to say about pharmacy benefits securing savings for employers and patients, and the root cause of high prescription drug prices – Big Pharma’s anti-competitive tactics – HERE.

Learn what a world without pharmacy benefit companies would look like HERE.

See PCMA’s guide to understanding the role and value of pharmacy benefit companies HERE.


PCMA is the national association representing America’s pharmacy benefit companies. Pharmacy benefit companies are working every day to secure savings, enable better health outcomes, and support access to quality prescription drug coverage for more than 275 million patients. Learn more at www.pcmanet.org