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The Federal Trade Commission is widening its probe into pharmacy benefit managers and their impact on drug pricing by looking into a pair of group purchasing organizations that are owned by these industry middlemen, but are not well understood outside the industry.

Pharmacy benefit managers are linchpins in the pharmaceutical pricing system, and are under increased scrutiny for allegedly driving up consumer costs. By seeking documents from Zinc Health Services and Ascent Health Services, the agency is attempting to unravel what critics complain is an opaque set of business practices and relationships.


Through their unique position, pharmacy benefit managers act as middlemen and work on behalf of health plans to create formularies, which are lists of medicines covered by insurance. This involves negotiating rebates and other discounts from drug companies in exchange for favorable placement on those formularies.

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