The U.S. Senate has confirmed Georgetown University law professor Alvaro Bedoya to a seven-year term on the Federal Trade Commission, reviving community pharmacy hopes that the pivotal agency will readdress critical issues relating to PBM dominance and overreach in the pharmacy sphere.
Bedoya (right) is a law professor at Georgetown University and also serves as director of its Center on Privacy and Technology.
The Senate voted 51-50 on Wednesday to confirm Bedoya, likely ending the 2-2 deadlock that has existed at the FTC since commissioner Rohit Chopra was chosen last year by President Joe Biden to serve as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
On Feb. 17, the FTC failed to reach consensus on launching a study into the reimbursement rates set by PBMs for health insurers and Medicare Part D plans. In a 2-2 vote, with both Republican-appointed commissioners voting in opposition, the agency declined to launch an investigation into whether the drug price-setting practices of PBMs unfairly favor PBM-affiliated pharmacies at the expense of independent or specialty ones.
The split vote came despite fervent demands from pharmacy and patient advocacy groups to look into a complex component of the health-care industry that has only weak federal oversight. Independent pharmacy representatives -- including American Pharmacies General Counsel Miguel Rodriguez -- testified earlier in the FTC meeting that the low reimbursements rates PBMs set for pharmacies are a conflict of interest that threatens to put community pharmacies out of business.
“I am really disappointed by this outcome,” FTC Chair Lina Khan, who backed the motion to launch a study, said immediately after the vote on Feb. 17. She said the commission had “for months been building a record with testimony from both patients and pharmacies alike underscoring the real urgency and life and death at stake in some instances.”
Khan specifically referenced PBM clawbacks, such as DIR fees, as a troubling trend. She also mentioned complaints about PBMs driving patients toward higher-priced drugs and steering patients to pharmacies that are part of the PBM's vertically integrated company.
Although Bedoya has not publicly expressed any position on PBM-related issues, it is reasonable to assume that his history of progressive, pro-consumer work would align him with Khan and provide the additional vote needed to launch a new PBM probe by the FTC.