The Alliance

The Weekly Dose | 01.24.20

January 24, 2020 7:36 pm

We’ll admit it: over the December holidays, we missed this letter from the Consumer Federation of America, End AIDS Now, and other groups to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The organizations support H.R. 5304, the Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) Transparency and Prescription Drug Costs Act, which would ensure “all rebates and discounts they receive from drug manufacturers to the health plans and patients, instead of withholding the money for themselves.”


We agree with that statement, and we explore this issue more in this week’s blog post, which is available below and which asks (and answers) why AARP has opposed efforts to ensure PBMs pass on rebates.


If you need more info for a story, or have questions, please email us. We look forward to working with you.


We look forward to working with you.



Patrick O’Connor – Executive Director

Rosemarie Calabro Tully – Communications Director




- There was a total of “117 US hospital mergers in 2017, 90 in 2018, and another 71 through last September” @axios’ @danprimack reports on Tuesday’s @ProRataPod. While touted as cost-saving measures, mergers neither lower costs nor improve quality of care. Click here to RT.  


- In comparison to #hospital spending, drug spending makes up just a small part of our #healthcare costs. Rather than punishing our #innovators with #pricecontrols, policymakers need to take a more holistic approach Click here to RT.


- Researchers reported the largest annual decline in the U.S. #cancer death rate. Experts mainly credit it to “advances in treatment” & “the impact of newer drugs.: We need a solution to high #healthcare costs, but innovation-killing price caps are not it. Click here to RT.




Check out and share on Twitter our latest blog posts:


- The Logic Behind AARP’s Public Drug-Pricing Campaign. AARP is one of the biggest proponents of drug-pricing legislation, but a new report illustrates how the organization’s public policy positions would harm the senior citizens AARP is supposed to represent—but enrich AARP itself. Click here to read the full blog post.


- Arnold-Funded Group Wrong On IPI. Patients For Affordable Drugs Now, the advocacy group funded by the Arnold Foundation, has run digital ads in support of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services’ proposal to adopt an International Pricing Index, or IPI. We explain how the IPI will harm innovation in America. Click here to read the full blog post. Share on Twitter here.


- The Worth Of A Thing Is What It Will Bring. There’s an English proverb that reminds us, “The worth of a thing is what it will bring.” For patients with debilitating or life-threatening diseases, it’s hard to put a “worth” on breakthrough medicines that “bring” them better health. Value assessments are often insufficient. Click here to read the full blog post. Share on Twitter here.




- Price Caps Won’t Help Generic Market Either. At The Hill, Oliver McPherson-Smith and Steve Pociask from the American Consumer Institute, write: “Legislating price controls will not work. Instead, when it comes to prescription drugs, the focus should be on encouraging price competition rather than trying to mitigate price increases. By introducing more market rivalry and eliminating regulatory bottlenecks, drug manufacturers are made to work harder for every dollar American consumers spend on prescription drugs.”


- Broad Institute Finds Old Drugs Might Be Used To Treat Cancer. According to STAT News Plus (subscription required), a team of researchers at the Broad Institute looked at 4,518 medications against 578 human cancer lines and found an “unexpectedly large” number of non-oncology drugs worked to inhibit cancer cell lines. In fact, nearly 200 showed some sort of effect in slowing tumor growth. Click here to read more, and click here to read our post on finding new applications for older medications.


- Arnold-Backed Drug Company Gets Health Insurer Infusion Of Cash. Forbes reports the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, which “represents some of the nation’s biggest health insurance companies,” said 18 of it companies will spend $55 million “to create a new subsidiary of the nonprofit generic drug maker Civica Rx to ‘acquire and develop abbreviated new drug applications (ANDAs) for select generic drugs.’” John and Laura Arnold were early investors in Civica. The article also notes insurers already own their own pharmacy-benefit managers.


- Hospitals Are Driving Health-Care Spending. For example, according to a new study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute Center for Research on Health Benefits Innovation, “Hospital prices for the top 37 infused cancer drugs averaged 86.2 percent more per unit than in physician offices.”


- Why Are There Drug Shortages? It’s Economics. The Regulatory Review reports: “In a new report, an interagency task force chaired by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explores the underlying causes of drug shortages … and recommends measures to prevent and mitigate future shortages. According to the report, the underlying causes of drug shortages in the United States include a lack of economic incentives to make certain drugs and develop mature quality management systems, as well as regulatory challenges that inhibit recovery from manufacturing disruptions.”


- Hope For Patients With Thyroid Eye Disease. MedPage Today reports that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved teprotumumab (Tepezza), a treatment for “adults with thyroid eye disease, making it the only non-surgical, FDA-approved treatment for this potentially blinding condition. Teprotumumab is a fully human monoclonal antibody inhibitor of insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor and is administered in eight doses, given as 30- to 90-minute infusion once every 3 weeks.”




Merrill Matthews from the Institute for Policy Innovation has created a “guide to understanding prescription drug pricing.” It’s a great tutorial and includes this statement:


“The more complicated it is to make a drug, and the fewer patients to pay for it, the more expensive each drug will likely be. It’s not profiteering; it’s math. However, just because some of the newest and most innovative biologics can be very expensive doesn’t necessarily mean that prescription drug spending is rising quickly. … As the Manhattan Institute’s Chris Pope recently explained, ‘From 2014 to 2018, price changes accounted for $22 billion in extra drug spending, which was more than offset by a $51 billion reduction in spending resulting from the loss of exclusivity that allowed generic drugs to enter the market. Spending increased slightly overall but not because of price increases. Increased usage of existing drugs led to $35 billion of additional spending while the introduction of new drugs accounted for another $75 billion.’”




February 5, 2020, 10 a.m.: Bipartisan Policy Center

Location: Washington Marriott at Metro Center, 775 12th Street NW, Washington, DC, 20005

Topic: Bipartisan Rx for America’s Health Care


- Tom Daschle, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader and co-founder of Bipartisan Policy Center

- Gail Wilensky, Senior Fellow, Project Hope

- Andy Slavitt, Senior Adviser, Bipartisan Policy Center

- Sheila Burke, Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center

- Jim Capretta, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

- Chris Jennings, Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center

- Cindy Mann, Partner, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips

- Avik Roy, President and Co-Founder, The Foundations for Research on Equal Opportunity