The Alliance

The Weekly Dose | 02.15.19

February 15, 2019 6:44 pm

After three congressional hearings on drug prices – and the tweetstorms surrounding them – we’ve heard our share of hot rhetoric. These statements won’t do anything to advance real solutions, however. This debate needs to center around solutions that will ensure Americans continue to have access to the medications they need. One idea that’s trending? The Trump administration plan to limit pharmacy benefit managers’ ability to divert drug manufacturer rebates from patients to their own pockets. Read on for insight into this proposal.


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Patrick O’Connor – Executive Director

Rosemarie Calabro Tully – Communications Director



 - We need solutions, not hot rhetoric.

 - How much do drugs save on doctor’s visits?

 - Health insurers and PBMs are bigger than big tech.

Follow us on Twitter: @ProtectMedicine



The Cost of Insurer-PBM Consolidation. A current-events trivia question: which companies will bring in more revenue in 2019 than the five leading technology companies? After watching several hearings on Capitol Hill, most Americans might answer drug companies, but the correct answer is health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). Read the full blog post here.

NYU Medical Professor: “Sick Patients Deserve The Rebates.” The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing Tuesday on drug pricing at which the subject of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) came up. In a column that appeared the day after the hearing, Dr. Marc Siegel, also addressed PBMs, arguing his patients, not these middlemen, “deserve the rebates.” Read the full blog post here.

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

 - Who Shares Drug Profits?

 - Insurers, Hospitals & The Price of Drugs

 - What You Won’t Hear In A Half Minute Ad



Americans Get Access To Drugs Before Citizens In Other Countries. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Hoover Institute Senior Fellow Dr. Scott Atlas acknowledges drug prices in the United States are higher than in other countries. What else is different? Americans get earlier access to lifesaving medications.

Why Do Americans Feel Like Drug Prices Are Rising? A Texas Pharmacist Explains. In an op-ed in the San Antonio Express-News independent pharmacist Jeff Carson says, “[M]y vantage point as a pharmacist … allows me to see why drug costs are rising: A handful of out-of-state companies known as pharmacy benefit managers, acting as middlemen between insurers and drug manufacturers, are driving up costs by manipulating the prescription drug market — a market they largely control.” In Roll Call, Bipartisan Policy Center Senior Vice President G. William Hoagland also takes a look at PBMs, as does antitrust lawyer David Balto over at Morning Consult.

Innovation Matters. According to Reuters, the combination of Merck’s cancer immunotherapy Keytruda and Pfizer’s Inlyta “cut the risk of death nearly in half for patients with the most common form of kidney cancer when compared with treatment with chemotherapy drug Sutent.

Potential Treatment For Depression Passes Key Hurdle. As STAT News reported, an independent advisory committee convened by the FDA moved a new drug to treat depression one step closer to approval this week. If approved, the nasal spray developed by Johnson & Johnson is “the first major depression treatment approved in decades.”

Why Are Biotechs Booming? 2018 was a good year for biotech IPOs. Why? WBB Securities’ Steve Brozak explains: “Our healthcare system in the U.S. is predicated on innovation and groundbreaking stuff. At the end of the day, people bet on not the current value, but the potential value of success.” And there’s a lot of exciting research happening now, ChemistryWorld



At least one freshman House member has suggested that the government should be able to claw back drug company revenues since the National Institutes for Health (NIH) is an “early investor.” While acknowledging the importance of the NIH’s early stage research, Forbes contributor John LaMattina explains:

“Unfortunately, many government officials believe that the crucial part in the development of a new medicine is the first step taken in basic science at a research institute like the NIH. Yes, that work is important. However, it is the equivalent of running the first mile of a 26.2 mile marathon. You still have 25.2 miles to go and each mile gets more difficult as you progress.”


Forbes contributor and Pacific Research Institute Senior Fellow Wayne Winegarden:

“In response to the problem of rising list prices for drugs, elected officials continue to propose counterproductive reforms. Whether it is importing drugs from Canada or indexing U.S. drug prices to the prices charged in other countries, these policies will make the current bad situation worse because they fail to understand the disincentives that are the root cause of the problem.”