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    Trump's drug pricing comments create debate

    While President-elect Donald Trump recently said that the pharmaceutical industry is “getting away with murder” in terms of drug prices, the industry is trying to self-regulate before facing tighter rules from the incoming administration.

    “Pharma has a lot of lobbies, a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power. And there’s very little bidding on drugs,” Trump said during a press conference in New York. “We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world, and yet we don’t bid properly.”

    According to current laws, the government cannot negotiate with pharmaceutical manufacturers on prices of drugs via Medicare. It is unclear whether Trump will seek to change this policy.

    Related: New 340B drug rule sets drugmaker fines

     

    GoldbergGoldberg
    However, Robert Goldberg, medical economist and vice president of Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, does not think that drug companies are “getting away with murder.” Instead, he agrees with Greg Simon, executive director of the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force, who told investors and executives at the recent J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, “I don't think the pharmaceutical industry is getting away with murder; I think the pharmaceutical industry is saving lives”, Goldberg told FormularyWatch.

    At the same time, Goldberg believes that a Trump administration will signal lower out-of-pocket costs for consumers and greater access to medications. “The key to achieving this is not price controls. Rather, the focus will be on changing the way drugs are paid for and developed,” Goldberg said.

    “It is possible to spread the cost of drugs over time and prevents segments of the population from having to choose between going into bankruptcy or hospice,” Goldberg said. “Drug companies give rebates to PBMs and insurance companies to get the best formulary placement. These rebates could go directly to patients.”  

    Related: Drug maker pays out millions over EpiPen charges

    In addition, the Trump administration will likely try to speed up approval of new medicines and reduce FDA’s backlog of generic drug application, Goldberg said.

    Drugmakers are already making efforts to curb prices. During the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, an AbbVie executive said the company would keep drug price hikes to single-digit increases annually. Allergan and Novo Nordisk made similar promises last year.

    Mylan Pharmaceuticals, which faced significant criticism last year for its EpiPen price hikes, has increased rebates to patients using the EpiPen and launched a generic EpiPen last year.

    “The pricing model has got to change. It’s not incremental change; I don’t think that’s what this country needs. I think it’s truly rethinking the business model,” said Heather Bresch, chief executive of Mylan at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, The Washington Post reported.

    “Improving affordable access to medication is exactly what we do,” Brian Henry, a spokesperson for pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) Express Scripts, told FormularyWatch. Examples of this include “our work to bring down the cost of a cure for hepatitis C to less than what is paid in Europe, indication-based pricing for medications that treat inflammatory conditions, and outcomes-based pricing where payers get a refund when patients don’t adhere to therapies or when the drug doesn’t work.”

    Read more: Medicare drug pricing debate heats up

    Christine Blank
    Contributing Editor Christine Blank is a freelance writer based in Florida.

    3 Comments

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    • Anonymous
      The problem with pharmacies business model is this (in my opinion). In the 80's when I first started my pharmacy career, Patients came in, we filled their perscription, and they paid cash. If they had medication coverage, they got reciepts and turned them in and got reimbursed. Prices were low, and stayed low because folks wouldn't fill a prescription if the price jumped several hundred or thousand percent overnight. Then insurance companies began paying the pharmacy directly, and the patient payed a copay. So then the patient no longer had to be concerned with the price of the meds, because they never saw it. Drug prices began to skyrocket. But the public was unaware. Then ins. companies began to have formularies, to try to cut costs. the consumer is still unaware. Their only problem is that they had higher copays or were denied some meds. The insurance companies, to stay competitive, had to cover drugs, even though the costs were out of control. Find an old red book and check the AWP of epipen in 1988. inflation and raw materials cost can't account for this. Its simply uncaring companies and greed. Everyone talks of rebates and coupons for patients, but thats only for a few, not for all. The real problem is companies no longer measure their success on selling a good product, and a fair price for all, and make a resonable profit. But now they only care for their stock prices, their investors, and their bonuses. Thats all well and good, but its unsustainable, as the investment banks found out in 2008, the system will collapse. I've seen these events unfold over 30 years, and I don't know the answer, but Government intervention is not the answer. Every time they get happy with new regulations, to try to curb costs, it ends up increasing cost even more. EX. USP 797 and 800. We should let it fall apart, then find a way to start over. I'm afraid at this point that is all we CAN do, because in the end, insurance will become so expensive, noone will be able to afford it. And then, the drug companies will be forced to rethink their price structure, or be out of business. Just like most independant pharmacies are now.
    • Anonymous
      As a pharmacist for almost 40 years I believe Americans are being (and I don't use the term lightly) raped on drug pricing. I have had patients show me name brand manufacturer Clobetasol 60 Gm tubes that were under $10 in Turkey, a son who spent a year in Taiwan and got brand Ventolin inhalers (evil CFC, even) for a similar price and a co-worker's dad that got an order (that I believe included a physician consult) for Lantus in Europe for under $50. Justify the cost of Cialis and Viagra, antibiotics that used to cost pennies, whipping boy Epi-pen, topical steroids and digoxin to name a few. I am disgusted.
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