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Commentary by Dr. Robert Levin: New law removes the veil over rising prescription drug costs

Originally Published in the Orlando Sentinel

Americans spend more per capita on prescription drugs than any other high-income country in the world. Many states have wrestled with the rising costs of these medications, particularly in Florida.

Recent data show that a great share of the rising costs can be attributed to the business practices of pharmacy benefit managers, third parties who are hired by health plans to manage the prescription-drug benefits of over 266 million Americans.

Although PBMs were originally created to help reduce drug costs, the opposite has proved true. Their position as intermediary between insurers, drug manufacturers and pharmacists has given PBMs a uniquely central role in the drug market; they now handle everything from setting patient copayment amounts to determining which drugs are covered by which health plans.

PBMs have a significant impact on Florida patients and their ability to obtain the medications they need in a timely and affordable manner, and yet very little is known about their role. Thankfully, Florida’s lawmakers listened to the concerns of constituents who depend on prescription medications and passed a bill this past session that would add transparency and accountability to the pricing process for prescription drugs.

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