American pharmacies are paying pharmacists to prescribe drugs, a practice that the Obama administration has called “a major source of prescription fraud” and “the main way drug companies steal from American consumers.”
That’s according to a report by the Center for Responsive Politics, which obtained documents from the Office of Inspector General.
The report notes that, since 2009, American pharmacies have paid more than $2 billion to pharmacy benefit managers to prescribe products like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen.
According to the report, pharmacy benefit management has also paid drug companies $1.3 billion to administer products like Xanax, the anti-anxiety drug.
Pharmacy benefit managers are often paid $500,000 to $1 million annually for administering drugs, according to the Office.
“There is no other industry that pays these high-level managers $1,000,000 per year,” said Michael Gerson, the Center’s vice president of policy and strategy.
“It’s absolutely astounding.”
The report comes amid the opioid crisis.
According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40,000 Americans died of opioid-related overdoses in 2016.
In addition, a report released by the Federal Trade Commission this month found that nearly two-thirds of pharmacy benefit manager (PBMs) were in the business of administering prescription drugs.
Pharmacists who prescribe drugs are often required to be licensed by the FDA, which regulates PBMs.
But while the PBMs have been paid millions of dollars to administer medications, the industry is largely unregulated.
According a 2013 report by Congress, “The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Drug Abuse Epidemic noted in a 2016 report that drug manufacturers do not adequately regulate PBMs and that the U,S.
Government does not enforce any regulation of PBMs, including those for the manufacture of drugs.”
Pharmacy Benefit Management, a company that claims to sell more than 2,000 drugs annually, has received a $2.2 billion contract from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a lobby group for drug companies, to administer more than 10 million prescriptions.
The PBMs are paid to administer drugs to patients through their own pharmacy, which is often located in a building, or by using a third-party company to administer the drug.
The Office of the Inspector General found that in 2009, pharmacy benefits managers in states that were participating in Medicare paid nearly $1 billion in drug costs for the benefit of pharmacies.
In 2018, pharmacy plan providers in the states participating in the Medicare program paid more per beneficiary to administer prescription drugs than the cost of prescription drugs paid to other providers.
According an analysis of data from the Department of Labor, about two-third of pharmacy benefits management contracts were awarded to the largest pharmacy benefit association, the Pharmacy Benefits Management Association.
Pharmacist Benefit Manager Association CEO John C. Gerson told the Center that the organization was “not aware of any allegations of drug theft in the pharmacy benefit plan industry.”
“It is important to point out that we do not condone drug theft or fraudulent drug use by any pharmacy benefit group,” Gerson said.
“We are a national provider of health care, but we have never been a drug theft ring.”
According to PharmacyBenefits.com, which lists PBMs in the U and abroad, the average pharmacy benefit provider pays about $400,000 annually to administer a drug to a patient.
However, the website lists more than 5,500 different pharmacy benefit plans, and there is no way to know the full extent of the pharmacy benefits group’s drug payments.
The Center for Public Integrity reached out to pharmacy benefits organizations across the country to get a handle on how many pharmacies are involved in drug payment arrangements.
In most states, the government does not track how many PBMs participate in drug-related payments, said Paul J. Gilder, president of the American Pharmacists Association.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) did not respond to requests for comment.
In some states, including California, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, Medicare payments are linked to drug pricing, and drug companies pay pharmacy benefit groups directly.
“The federal government has never had oversight of the pharmaceutical industry,” said Mark DeCoteau, executive director of Pharmacy Partners, an advocacy group for the pharmaceuticals industry.
“When the federal government puts the responsibility for monitoring payments and the accountability on private companies, they are the ones who are ultimately responsible for their actions.”
But some members of Congress are not satisfied with the federal response.
In July, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) introduced legislation that would require the Department, the Department’s Office of Management and Budget, and the FDA to issue a report on how much the government paid drug benefit managers in 2017 and 2018.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), would also require that the