By Alex Kacik | June 14, 2017
Prescription drug discounter Blink Health has ended its contract with the nation's largest pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts over a dispute involving a price rebate program for Eli Lilly's insulin.
Express Scripts, Blink Health and Eli Lilly launched a partnership in December to provide uninsured patients with discounts of up to 40% off the retail price for Lilly's insulin. The companies said the partnership would improve affordability and access to diabetes treatment, which has been a leading driver of overall healthcare spending.
A Blink Health spokeswoman declined to comment on the reasons for the contract termination.
An Express Scripts spokesman said Blink ended the contract because it did not want an exclusive relationship with the PBM, which violated the terms of the agreement. Express Scripts said it will continue to extend the discounts through Blink through 2017, unless Blink elects to terminate the Lilly discounts sooner.
Blink Health offers pharmacy cards through its mobile and web apps that provide consumers with negotiated discounts on prescription drugs, cutting certain players—often insurers—out of the drug supply chain.
Drugmakers, PBMs and others in the pharmacy supply chain continue to blame each other for high drug prices amid rising political and public scrutiny. Congressional leaders and other critics have called out PBMs, which process drug claims and negotiate drug discounts with pharmaceutical companies on behalf of payers, for keeping their practices hidden through nondisclosure agreements. PBMs take a cut from the rebates they negotiate, but it's hard to pinpoint how much they receive and how much is passed on to their clients.
Rising drug prices have put patients, hospitals and insurers in a pinch as out-of-pocket costs increase, bottom lines are squeezed and the most effective treatments are deterred. Drug companies claim the high drug prices account for research and development costs associated with producing life-saving drugs, while critics point to a lack of competition that allow pharmaceutical companies to profit.