ACHP Media Report: Pharmacy News – March 31, 2017

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ACHP in the news: House Speaker Paul Ryan has said the Trump administration can use discretion when it comes to cost-sharing reduction subsidies for insurers. In Axios, ACHP President and CEO Ceci Connolly says clarity will help health plans make sound business decisions.

Rising Cost of Drugs a Major Concern

Legislation to address drug pricing
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) introduced a bill Wednesday that requires pharmaceutical companies disclose the total cost of bringing a drug to market. The bill aims to increase price transparency and accountability, improve access and affordability of drugs, encourage innovation and increase market competition. The Hill Extra notes additional provisions include the ability of the HHS Secretary to negotiate drug prices with companies and allow wholesalers to import drugs from FDA-approved Canadian facilities.

In other news, more than 100 healthcare organizations endorsed the Improving Transparency and Accuracy in Medicare Part D Spending Act introduced by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA). The bill would prohibit Medicare Part D plans from claiming rebate funds after point of sale.

High drug prices, blame game continues
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, PhRMA, released a report to support the claim that patients feel the strain from drug prices because pharmacy benefit managers are pocketing savings from rebates. Critics point out in Business Insider that the report does not address the issue of rising drug prices.

The price of innovation
On Tuesday, the FDA approved several breakthrough drugs, including Dupixent, to treat severe eczema. While priced at $37,000 per year, the New York Times explains it’s less expensive than similar drugs Enbrel and Humira. The drug approved to treat relapsing multiple sclerosis, Ocrevus, will be priced at $65,000 per year cites Med City News. The question remains about price tags of new drugs and their potential burden on consumers.

Efforts to Combat Opioid Crisis Ongoing

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is scrutinizing the role drug manufacturers played in the opioid epidemic. McCaskill sent letters to the top five sellers of prescription painkillers, demanding internal studies about the addictive properties of opioids, copies of marketing material and records of donations to advocacy groups.

Opioid commission takes shape amid concerns
Governor Chris Christie is slated to lead President Trump’s opioid commission. The commission will also include Attorney General Jeff Sessions and HHS Secretary Tom Price. A draft executive order reviewed by STAT News notes the panel will be responsible for finding federal funds to address the epidemic, providing strategy recommendations and detailing a report in October.

In support of the commission, the Administration has changed leadership in the Office of Drug Control Policy, appointing Rich Baum, a former Hill GOP staffer as acting head. Baum aims for a supply side approach to the opioid epidemic by tackling international drug cartels. Critics worry that the Administration’s plan to construct a border wall to address drug cartels instead of directing resources toward treatment could make the situation worse.

Fewer doctors prescribing opioids
As primary care doctors become more educated on opioid addiction, they are increasingly turning to alternative therapies, like acupuncture and physical therapy, to treat chronic pain instead of prescribing opioids. Some experts worry patients experiencing severe pain may find it difficult to obtain medication.

Attention on the FDA

Gottlieb plans role in FDA decisions for companies
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, President Trump’s nominee to lead the FDA, will remove himself from FDA decisions for several companies for the first year, if confirmed. The Wall Street Journal reports Gottlieb’s past includes involvement as an advisor, executive, speaker, consultant and investor for pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Bristol-Myers Squibb Inc.

Critics of Gottlieb’s appointment question his lack of scientific background and worry about the influence marketing and advertising will have on consumers’ views of a drug’s effectiveness. Supporters of his appointment view him as an opportunity to bring the FDA into the 21st century by advocating for increased use of technology.

Critics argue right-to-try gives false hope
Right-to-try legislation, which would allow patients access to drugs outside of clinical trials and not yet approved by the FDA, is gaining momentum. Thirty-three states have passed such laws, and several federal lawmakers may try to incorporate a measure in the FDA funding bill this year. Laurie McGinley at The Washington Post explains.