ACHP Media Report: Pharmacy News – July 28, 2017

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ACHP in the News: Lack of enforcement of the individual mandate could lead to increased instability in the market. ACHP President and CEO Ceci Connolly said uncertainty in the market has become increasingly problematic for community plans and a continuous coverage mechanism is needed for market sustainability.

Health Care Debate: The Senate voted down the “skinny repeal” of the ACA early Friday morning. The bill was rejected in a 51-49 vote, with Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AL), Susan Collins (R-ME) and John McCain (R-AZ) casting votes against the bill. ACHP sent a letter to Senate leadership yesterday requesting steps to ensure the individual insurance market is stabilized and Medicaid beneficiaries are protected.


Drug cost conversation continues

Health systems can expect nearly 8 percent rise in drug prices next year
Group purchasing organization Vizient projects drug prices to increase 7.61 percent next year largely due to rising prices of branded, specialty drugs. Drugs with the highest price spikes include ones treating rheumatoid arthritis, like AbbVie’s Humira at 14.8 percent, and multiple sclerosis, like Biogen’s Tecfidera at 9.1 percent. Vizient’s report highlights manipulation of orphan drug classification and lack of competition among suppliers as main factors in rising pharmaceutical prices.

Price transparency faces opposition in Ohio
A law to inform patients on costs of health care procedures has not yet been implemented nearly two years after it unanimously passed Ohio’s state Legislature. Ohio’s Healthcare Price Transparency Law stipulates providers must give patients a “good faith” cost estimate for non-emergency services before they start treatment. Ohio Hospital Association and a range of provider groups filed a court injunction that is currently delaying the bill’s enactment. The Association also lobbied Gov. John Kasich, who eliminated funding to implement the law from the latest state budget.

Congressional hearing covers rising drug costs and proposed cuts to 340B program
At a hearing last week, Congress discussed HHS Secretary Tom Price’s proposal to make cuts to the 340B program. The federal program requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide discounts for hospitals that serve low-income populations. CMS is proposing paying hospitals 22.5 percent less than the average sales price for drugs in the federal program to redistribute the savings through increased Medicare payments to participating hospitals. About 40 percent of hospitals in the country rely on the 340B program, and hospital officials are concerned the diverted funds will not help the intended population. House Democrats argue cuts to the program will not curb high drug prices, which should have a separate investigation from the 340B program.

PhRMA launches campaign about drug costs
Industry trade group PhRMA started a national campaign called “Let’s Talk About Cost” to tackle the issue of drug costs head on. The group aims to put the cost and value of medicines in perspective for consumers. The initial print advertisement ran in the Wall Street Journal, asking a series of four questions and redirecting consumers to a custom website for answers. The ad campaign works along with a broader effort to boost the reputation of the pharmaceutical industry.


FDA happenings

Report predicts improved competition at Gottlieb-led FDA
PwC Health Research Institute expects faster drug approvals and increased competition for pharmaceutical manufacturers due to FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb’s push for regulatory reform. In a report this month, the group reviewed Gottlieb’s past work to analyze his three regulatory philosophies: minimize burdens, incentivize innovation and promote competition. It says the FDA’s new authorities under the 21st Century Cures Act will help Gottlieb accomplish his goal of reducing regulations to get patients critical medical products more quickly and efficiently.

Celgene settles in marketing dispute
In response to a whistle-blower lawsuit, pharmaceutical company Celgene has agreed to pay $259.3 million to the United States and $20.7 million to 28 states and the District of Columbia. The settlement comes in response to claims that the company marketed its cancer drugs for unapproved uses. Pharmaceutical companies are supposed to promote their products only for uses that are approved by the FDA. The case represents one of the largest settlements involving cancer treatments.


Opioid epidemic

Lawyers take aim at opioid makers
Attorneys involved in the landmark 1990s tobacco litigation are at the forefront of legal action against the makers of opioid painkillers. As Mississippi’s attorney general in 1994, Michael Moore filed the first state lawsuit against tobacco companies for harming public-health systems. Now, he’s a private attorney pressing states to sue drug makers. Moore is among many lawyers flocking to help the government sue companies who create opioids, alleging they helped spark an addiction crisis by misrepresenting benefits and risks of opioid painkillers.

McKesson to create independent board chairman after opioid protest
Top pharmaceutical wholesaler McKesson agreed to create an independent board chairman after the union Teamsters – a McKesson shareholder – led a protest against the company’s suspicious handling of opioid orders to U.S. communities. McKesson is the largest U.S. distributor of prescription drugs and is facing lawsuits and government investigations for not reporting frequent or suspiciously large shipments of opioids. Last January, McKesson paid a record $150 million settlement to DOJ over allegations of violating the Controlled Substances Act.


New drugs and therapies

New HIV treatments
Gilead Sciences has developed an experimental HIV pill that blocks the virus at a similar rate to a rival drug from GlaxoSmithKline in a clinical trial. Gilead’s drug is expected to receive approval at the end of 2017 or early 2018. The company has been relying on its growing HIV business as sales of its hepatitis C drugs are falling.

In other developments in HIV therapies, a long-acting antiretroviral shot has been demonstrated as safe and effective in a clinical trial lead by ViiV Healthcare. For many patients, sticking with a strict regimen of daily pills is difficult and the shot, administered every four or eight weeks, could offer a better alternative to improve patient adherence.