The Alliance

The Weekly Dose | 02.08.19

February 8, 2019 8:15 am

This week both President Donald Trump and the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Express Scripts offered evidence that drug prices are growing a very slow rate. The White House also outlined bold plans to eradicate HIV and AIDS and search for cures for childhood cancer. The president’s ability to achieve both of those goals will depend on how the debate over drug prices unfolds in Washington and statehouses around the country.

 

Have questions? Need more info for a story? Email us. We look forward to working with you.

 

Best,

Patrick O’Connor – Executive Director

Rosemarie Calabro Tully – Communications Director

 


 

THE PRESIDENT’S STATE OF THE UNION

The Alliance to Protect Medical Innovation’s Executive Director Patrick O’Connor released the following statement on the president’s State of the Union Address:

“As President Trump noted in his speech, the price of prescription drugs has slowed dramatically in recent years, a fact often overlooked by politicians and the media. Any effort to control healthcare costs should preserve the unique ecosystem that drastically reduced AIDS deaths in the U.S. and offers the promise of future breakthroughs to treat childhood cancer.”

 

THE STORIES THAT DIDN’T GET ENOUGH ATTENTION

 - SOTU: Two Proposals In Tension. In his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump promised that his administration will address drug prices and will put the nation on a path to ending HIV by 2030. That latter goal, however, is in tension with the Trump administration’s proposal to link U.S. drug prices to prices paid in other countries. Read the full blog post here.

 - Who Benefitted From Drugmaker Rebates? As Washington policymakers consider drug prices, the first task on their list should be to ensure the $166 billion in drug-manufacturer rebates go toward lowering patient costs and improving patient care. Here’s why. Read the full blog post here.

 

In case you missed them, here are some other recent posts on the APMI blog:

 States Examine Pharmacy Benefit Managers’ Role In Rising Health Care Prices

 Who Shares Drug Profits?

 Falling Cancer Rates And The International Pricing Model

 

WHAT WE’RE READING

 - Insurance Plan Drug Costs Essentially Flat. As EndPoints News reported, the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Express Scripts released a report that showed drug prices are rising at a snail’s pace. The report found that “in 2018 employer-sponsored plans paid roughly 6 cents more, on average, for a 30-day prescription (0.4 percent hike) versus the preceding year, marking the smallest increase in commercial plans in a quarter century.”

 - Arnold Foundation To Go For-Profit. According to Vox, the Arnold Foundation, which has provided funding to several groups that advocate for prices caps on drug prices, will soon convert to a corporation.  

 - Sanders Bill “Shortsighted.” Sally Pipes from the Pacific Research Institute argues legislation introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would peg U.S. drug prices to those in five foreign countries “would slow pharmaceutical innovation and expose patients to dangerous counterfeits in exchange for a small amount of short-term savings.”

  - Hospitals’ Prices Keep Going Up. According Axios, hospital fees are rising much faster than doctors’ fees, and hospitals are driving almost all of the price increases for certain common procedures, according to a new study published in Health Affairs. Axios this week also took a look at variations in prices at hospitals.

  - Explaining Drug Rebates. In The Wall Street Journal, Drug Channels Institute CEO Adam Fein explains how health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) mismanage drug rebates. Fein notes, “Last year manufacturers paid $166 billion in rebates and discounts, amounting to a 40-percent reduction in prices for off-brand drugs. Certain essential drugs like insulin sell at even deeper discounts.”

  - PBMs and Neighborhood Pharmacies. News12 in the Bronx examines how – and why – neighborhood pharmacists in New York are speaking up about Pharmacy Benefit Managers.

  - Pioneer Institute Urges Caution On Mass. Proposal. In Commonwealth Magazine, Pioneer Institute Visiting Fellow William Smith examines Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s drug pricing proposal. While Smith says the governor offered some “promising initiatives,” he argues against a provision to allow the governor to refer companies to the state Health Policy Commission when they cannot agree with regulators on the value of a drug.

 

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK

Forbes contributor Doug Schoen explains how allowing government to negotiate prices has reduced access to lifesaving drugs:

“Granting HHS direct negotiating power in Medicare Part D could mean that, if the government is unable to negotiate a price it wants for a medication, it will not provide the drug at all. Such a move has been attempted in other countries with disastrous results. Indeed, analysis performed by The Wall Street Journal found that 95 percent of the 74 cancer drugs released between 2011 and 2018 are available in the US. Meanwhile, only 74 percent of these drugs are available in the UK, 49 percent in Japan, and 8 percent in Greece.”

 

Matthew Kandrach, president of Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, writing in Morning Consult:

There “is no question that the care provided and offered in the United States is the best available in the world. For example, more than 70 percent of all new medicines that come to market are treatments made possible from innovative research and development conducted here at home.”

 

EVENTS TO WATCH NEXT WEEK

 

Tuesday, Feb. 12, 8 a.m.: “Paying For Cures: Ensuring Patient Access And System Sustainability"

Location: National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor, Washington, D.C.

Topic: Understand the future of curative therapies and their financing challenges

Contact: Katie Torrance, ktorrence@mit.edu

Website: https://www.press.org/events/paying-cures-ensuring-patient-access-and-system-sustainability

 

Tuesday, Feb. 12, 10:00am: House Ways and Means Committee Hearing, “The Cost of Rising Prescription Drug Prices”

Location: 1100 Longworth House Office Building

Witnesses: TBA

Website: https://waysandmeans.house.gov/legislation/hearings/cost-rising-prescription-drug-prices