ACHP Media Report: Pharmacy News – February 3, 2017

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ACHP in the news: ACHP President and CEO Ceci Connolly discusses the Affordable Care Act marketplace in Modern Healthcare.

Geisinger Health Plan Chief Financial Officer and Chief Actuary Kurt Wrobel describes lessons learned from the individual market and the Affordable Care Act in Forbes.

Trump meets pharmaceutical executives
On January 31, President Trump met with executives of the largest pharmaceutical companies to discuss drug pricing in the United States. Carolyn Johnson of The Washington Post writes Trump has committed to easing Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations and streamlining the drug approval process as well as encouraging job creation in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) Chief Executive Officer Stephen Ubl praised the recent meeting with President Trump, Vice President Pence and Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Greg Walden (R-OR).

 Consumers question insulin price increases
Concern about rising drug costs continues, with the most recent outcry focused on increases in insulin prices. A recent study published by JAMA finds insulin prices tripled between 2002 and 2013, leading to increased out-of-pocket costs for consumers reports Katie Thomas of The New York Times. In December, several pharmaceutical companies were accused of price-fixing and collusion related to increasing drug prices, and recently another lawsuit was filed on behalf of diabetes patients in Massachusetts.

The suit alleges pharmaceutical companies Sanofi, Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk participated in a price-fixing scheme detrimental to patients’ ability to afford and access insulin. The plaintiffs also claim drug companies are raising prices in order to continue with the same rebate amount for pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) without lowering the overall price tag. In doing so, patients are left to pay the increased difference in price, one that many cannot afford. Carolyn Johnson of The Washington Post explains the suit also notes pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) are culpable in the scheme by misrepresenting the price savings rebates actually bring to patients, a claim PBMs disputes.

Lawmakers remain committed to drug pricing
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) remains committed to tackling drug prices in the United States. Grassley hopes to address the high cost of drugs by tightening regulations on the relationships between brand and generic manufacturers and allowing drug importation. Caitlin Owens of Axios shares Sen. Grassley believes drug pricing legislation could be incorporated in the debate around the Affordable Care Act.

Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), announced his support for a bill targeting high-price drugs that are no longer patent protected and have no generic competition. The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), is designed to encourage drug manufacturers to produce generic copies of off-patent drugs by expediting the review process at the FDA. Jonathan Rockoff of The Wall Street Journal reports Mylan NV’s EpiPen may be targeted with this bill (subscriber’s content).

Schools educating on the dangers of opioids
As the opioid epidemic intensifies, schools are going beyond the “just say no” message to prevent students from using drugs by teaching about the dangers of using opioids and heroin in detail. Ohio and New York have passed laws requiring opioid abuse prevention be taught during health education starting in kindergarten. Lessons are tailored to different ages, include interactive lessons and include science-based lessons for older students. The Associated Press notes educators hope the revised curriculum will discourage students from experimenting with these drugs.

Potential impact of executive orders
Following President Trump’s freeze on hiring federal workers, questions remain how this will impact the FDA. Democratic senators on the health committee sent a letter to Acting FDA Commissioner, Dr. Stephen Ostroff, warning of potential consequences of the hiring freeze. According to Sheila Kaplan of STAT News, the hiring freeze may also prevent the FDA from filling critical scientific and technical workforce positions.