CVS Health Corp.’s Caremark is the latest big PBM to offer clients new pricing models that the company claims will increase transparency and reduce overhead. Experts say that the new offerings are not as transparent as CVS claims they are, and constitute a response to various pressures including likely federal PBM reforms, scrutiny from plan sponsors and disruptive business trends like the growth of Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Co.
Most experts expect that the new CVS offerings, called CostVantage and TrueCost, will only make a marginal difference — if any — in either drug costs or price transparency. Industry observers point to similar product rollouts by the other two of the Big Three PBMs, UnitedHealth Group’s Optum Rx and The Cigna Group’s Express Scripts, neither of which seemed to dampen the firms’ PBM earnings. Express Scripts’ ClearCareRx and Optum Rx’s Cost Clarity launched in April and May, respectively. Express Scripts also rolled out a new “cost-plus pharmacy pricing” option, called ClearNetwork, in November.