The prescription drug distribution chain is complex and involves several stakeholders. There are generally six in the supply and demand of prescription drugs: pharmaceutical manufacturers, health insurers (including self-insured employers), pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), pharmacies, wholesalers, and patients.
These stakeholders’ contracts determine how much a patient’s health insurance pays for prescription drugs and the patient’s out-of-pocket costs. Pharmaceutical manufacturer rebates are one of the key drivers that influence how health insurers cover prescription drugs. Rebates affect the finances of all stakeholders involved in the prescription drug distribution chain.
Prescription drug rebates are generally paid by a pharmaceutical manufacturer to a PBM, who then shares a portion with the health insurer. Rebates are mostly used for high-cost brand-name prescription drugs in competitive therapeutic classes where there are interchangeable products (rarely for generics), and aim to incentivize PBMs and health insurers to include the pharmaceutical manufacturer’s products on their formularies and to obtain preferred “tier” placement.
The May 2018 “American Patients First: The Trump Administration Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs” from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services targets rebates as part of its goal to lower prescription drug prices. In this article, Milliman’s Gabriela Dieguez, Maggie Alston, and Samantha Tomicki explain the finances associated with rebates and their impact on health insurer coverage decisions.