WASHINGTON Dec 3 The U.S. Federal Trade
Commission plans to keep a close eye on pharmacy benefits
managers - companies which manage prescription drug programs -
after approving two big mergers in recent years, commissioners
said during a wide ranging congressional hearing on Tuesday.
The commission, whose role is to protect fair competition,
approved Express Scripts' merger with Medco Health
Solutions in 2012, with one member dissenting, after giving the
green light for CVS to buy Caremark in 2007.
The combined company, now CVS Caremark has since
come under fire for practices including using confidential
information on Caremark patients to steer them to CVS.
Asked if the commission planned to revisit the pharmacy
benefits management industry, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said,
"We're aware of the concerns and this is an area that we're
going to look at closely."
She made the remarks at a hearing of the House Energy and
Commerce Committee's subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and
Trade which focused on the FTC's impact on jobs and the economy.
Commissioner Julie Brill, who like Ramirez is a Democrat,
said that she felt the pharmaceutical benefits market was
concentrated enough to warrant keeping a close eye on it.
In the past, Brill said, "I saw some evidence of
coordination and I worry a great deal about coordination in this
Maureen Ohlhausen, a Republican commissioner at the agency,
said the commission would be interested in factors like whether
prices went up or selection went down after the deals were
She said any problems would be slow to show up since
companies' contracts with pharmacy benefits managers tended to
be long term.
"It might take a little while" for trends to emerge,
Ohlhausen told reporters after the hearing.
The fourth commissioner, Republican Josh Wright, declined to
comment on the issue.
President Barack Obama has nominated a fifth commissioner,
Democrat Terrell McSweeny. Her nomination was advanced by a
Senate panel in November but has yet to be considered by the