Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost blasted the middlemen responsible for negotiating drug prices on behalf of the state Monday, calling for immediate legislative action. The move comes a month after the state formally launched a lawsuit against the pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) responsible for the negotiations.
Currently, Ohio cannot directly negotiate with major prescription drug manufacturers. The only means by which the prices of prescription drugs can be addressed in the Buckeye State is through PBMs or drug negotiators. Since they are compensated by the state, it’s expected of them to put the priority of Ohioans above all else.
In June of last year, then Attorney General Mike DeWine, now governor, formally launched an investigation into the organizations, alleging that they were putting their own interests before the state.
Since the end of 2017, my office has been reviewing and investigating issues regarding PBMs and their contracts with Ohio agencies, such as the Ohio Department of Medicaid, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, and our numerous pension systems. It is clear that the conduct by PBMs in these areas remains a major concern, and we anticipate that our investigation will result in major litigation against PBMs.
In March, Yost announced a lawsuit against OptumRx on behalf of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation in an effort to “recover nearly $16 million in overcharges to the fund intended to protect injured workers.”
Furthermore, the Attorney General is investigating the Department of Medicaid, the Department of Administrative Services, the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the School Employees Retirement System of Ohio, the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, and the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund, all on similar charges.
However, feeling that the state could “do more,” Yost called on all legislators Monday to immediately pass legislation to curb the controversial practices. He noted four specified objectives that any legislation should achieve:
- State drug purchases should go through a master PBM contract that is administered through a single point of contact.
- The Ohio Auditor of State should have unrestricted authority to review all PBM drug contracts, purchases and payments.
- PBMs must be fiduciaries.
- Nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) on drug pricing with the state must be prohibited.
While the lawsuit Yost filed could take several years, legislation could be passed in a far more expeditious manner.
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to [email protected].
Photo “Dave Yost” by Dave Yost.