ACHP Media Report: Pharmacy News – April 14, 2017

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Drug pricing conversation continues

Drug manufacturers make commitment to restrict price increases
Three drugmakers, AbbVie, Novo Nordisk and Valeant, have agreed to match Allergan’s commitment to restricting price increases of products to less than 10 percent. A consumer advocacy group published a report that shows only four companies have agreed to cap increases out of the 28 that were surveyed. The group says the survey shows the need for elected officials to help regulate the industry.

Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), policymakers and payers all have a hand in making medications more affordable for consumers, in addition to pharmaceutical companies. According to Express Scripts Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Steve Miller, M.D., the role of PBMs should be helping consumers pay the lowest net cost, and drugmakers who have agreed to limit price increases are on the right path to improving affordability.

States take action
Maryland lawmakers passed a bill aimed at preventing price gouging by pharmaceutical companies. The legislation allows the Maryland attorney general to request an explanation and evidence from drugmakers that increase the price of a generic drug with fewer than three competitors by 50 percent or more. If the attorney general is not satisfied with the explanation, he can ask the circuit court to reverse the price hikes, refund consumers and impose a fine of up to $10,000. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has yet to sign the bill into law.

California State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) has introduced legislation that would require pharmaceutical companies to provide notification of significant price increases and justification for price changes. A similar bill was defeated last year, as was a state ballot measure that would have given California greater control over drug prices. The California Senate Committee on Health will hold hearings on the bill April 19.

MedPAC takes on drug rebates
During its recent meeting, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) addressed the issue of plans collecting rebates for prescription drugs after the point-of-sale. Rebates have grown 20 percent each year between 2010 and 2015. The commission plans to revisit the issue in the fall and include recommendations in its April 2018 report to Congress.

Shortages increasing drug prices
A recent report by the New England Journal of Medicine writes that drug shortages compromise medical care and contribute to increases in drug prices. While drug shortages have declined since they peaked in 2014, current estimates point to a shortage of 176 drugs. Researchers note action is needed to keep drug manufacturing facilities up-to-date and are proponents of U.S. regulatory incentives to encourage companies to do so.

Addressing the opioid epidemic

Medicaid tackles opioid abuse
Medicaid beneficiaries tend to be prescribed opioids more frequently and have a higher rate of overdoes. Medicaid programs have implemented a range of tactics to address the issue, including prior authorization requirements, limits on opioid dispensing and drug monitoring programs.

Senators seek to limit opioid prescriptions
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and John McCain (R-AZ) introduced a bill that limits first time opioid prescriptions for acute pain to seven days and does not allow for a refill. Prescriptions to treat chronic illnesses and end-of-life care would not be subject to the rules. Several states, including New York and Arizona, have already enacted similar policies.

Opioid tax would fund treatment
California is considering imposing a tax on prescription opioids to help fund addiction treatment and prevention programs. Proponents of the legislation say that the money is needed due to a lack of access to treatment. Similar tax measures are being considered by Congress and the state of Alaska.

Foundation partners with pharma to tackle overdoses
In partnership with the Clinton Foundation, Adapt Pharma is donating 40,000 doses of Narcan spray, an opioid antidote, to about 5,000 universities to help prevent overdoses. More than 3,000 doses of Narcan spray were previously donated to high schools across the country.

PhRMA’s latest tactics

 Patient advocates paid to lobby by PhRMA
Pharmaceutical companies are sponsoring patient advocacy groups to lobby on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Recently, rare disease advocacy groups were provided lobbying training by top consultants, information on lawmakers and financial backing that allowed patients to attend a conference. Critics feel potential conflicts of interest in funding should be disclosed.