During its Wednesday earnings call, Express Scripts (ESRX) continued to blame drug companies for the high price tags patients are seeing, while highlighting the ways pharmacy benefit managers attempt to keep drug prices low.
Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager based in St. Louis, attempted to address its role in the drug pricing chain during the call held Wednesday ahead of market's open, and place the blame for high prices on drug companies.
"Drug makers set prices and we exist to bring those prices down to ensure that patients can access the drugs they need and payers can afford them. We use every tool in our arsenal to do it," CEO Timothy Wentworth said during the Wednesday call.
CFO Eric Slusser added during the analyst call that while brand name drug inflation was 11% industry-wide in 2016, "just 2.5%" was justified.
The two executives also discussed the potential changes to the Affordable Care Act, admitting that they, like others in healthcare, have little guidance from politicians on how they might go about repealing and replacing Obamacare.
"With all of the discussion about the ACA, the constant is that our deep expertise in Medicare, Medicaid and the exchanges will help our clients navigate a complex and changing landscape," Wentworth said. "This is what we did when Medicare Part D was approved. This is what we did when the ACA was approved. It is what we do as states evolve their Medicaid rules and why clients hire us."
Wentworth added that one of the unintended consequences of the law, which mandates healthcare for all citizens in the U.S., is that deductibles in healthcare plans have skyrocketed as insurers attempt to pass some of the high drug pricing onto patients.
He also noted that as Express Scripts works directly with Anthem (ANTM - Get Report) , it is working to "help them win" as far as drug pricing goes. Anthem and Cigna (CI - Get Report) are mired in lawsuits following the news that Anthem's attempted takeover of its peer will not pass Department of Justice muster, which came earlier this month.
As for its actual financials, which were posted Tuesday night, the company's net income was $3.4 billion for 2016, according to its filing with the Securities Exchange Commission. Express Scripts released its results ahead of its Wednesday earnings call. For 2016, Express Scripts' earnings per diluted share stood at $5.39.
The company reaffirmed 2017 guidance. It calls for adjusted earnings per diluted share to range from a low of $6.82 to a high of $7.02, an 8% bump over the same earnings for 2016 at the mid-point of the range. And for the first quarter 2017, Express Scripts is projecting adjusted earnings per diluted share to range from $1.30 to $1.34, a growth of 7% to 10% from the same time last year.
Express Scripts handled a total of 1.4 billion claims, a slight decrease from 2015, with its network claims leading the way and its home delivery and specialty segment essentially flat.
Express Scripts' shares were steady Wednesday morning, hovering around $69.61 apiece. The company's stock has seen a 1.43% increase in the past year.