ACHP Media Report: Pharmacy News – November 4, 2016

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Insulin prices on the rise
The price of insulin has increased more than 200 percent since 2004, often with pharmaceutical companies following suit and raising prices when their competitors do. More consumers are feeling the strain of these increases as they are enrolled in high-deductible plans with significant out-of-pocket costs. A biosimilar for insulin is slated to enter the market in December 2016, but analysts anticipate it will provide no more than 15 percent in savings. Ben Popken with NBC News has the story.

 California drug pricing initiative on the ballot
Proposition 61, an initiative targeting rising drug prices, is on the California ballot, much to the chagrin of pharmaceutical companies who have spent more than $100 million in opposition efforts. The initiative aims to leverage lower drug prices through collective bargaining by several state agencies and obtain the drug prices available to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the lowest currently available. According to Maria Castellucci of Modern Healthcare opponents believe Proposition 61 will lead to higher drug prices for non-governmental agencies and reduced access for veterans and other consumers.

A similar initiative in Ohio was slated for this year’s ballot but has been pushed back, potentially until next year, due to a lawsuit won by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America challenging petition signatures.

Pharmaceutical companies under investigation
The Department of Justice is investigating several pharmaceutical companies on suspected price collusion of generic drugs. Drug companies are allowed to raise prices at the same time, but it is illegal for them to work together to set prices, discounts, production quotas or fees. David McLaughlin and Caroline Chen of Bloomberg write charges are expected to be filled by the end of the year.

Pfizer stops developing PCSK9
Citing diminished efficacy over time and issues with tolerability, Pfizer has announced it will no longer develop bococizumab, a cholesterol drug classified as a PCSK9. This drug class has not performed well in the market, partly due to the coverage restrictions implemented by insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers, according to Pfizer. Jonathan Rockoff and Austen Hufford of The Wall Street Journal note Pfizer now anticipates adjusted earnings and revenue to increase for this year (subscriber’s content).

EpiPen competitor not well-known
Adrenaclick is a government-approved alternative to Mylan Pharmaceutical’s EpiPen, yet it remains widely unknown and infrequently prescribed. The drug came to market more than 13 years ago and has been owned by six different companies and sold under various names. Marketing has not been a priority for these companies and Adrenaclick holds between 1 and 2 percent of the market share. Katie Thomas of The New York Times shares it may be too late for more marketing efforts as other, more prominent companies plan to release lower-cost alternatives to the EpiPen this year or next.

FDA struggles to recruit drug approval staff
The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has more than 700 job vacancies. While some open positions are the result of an increased scope of work for the FDA, many are due to pharmaceutical companies recruiting drug approval staff. Compensation, benefits and the hiring timeline are perceived to be more favorable at pharmaceutical companies. Sydney Lupkin and Sarah Tribble of Kaiser Health News explain the FDA needs to fill vacancies to expedite drug approvals.

Earlier this week:

Groups call for drug prices in Cures bill
The 21st Century Cures bill, designed to boost investments in research and accelerate
Food and Drug Administration approval of treatments, may not pass the House this year. A coalition of 13 liberal groups submitted a letter asking Congress to delay moving forward with the legislation until it includes regulation on high drug prices. Peter Sullivan at The Hill has the story.

Monetary reward motivates pharma research  
Universities and pharmaceutical companies are more motivated by profits than in the past. Carolyn Y. Johnson of The Washington Post shares when researchers discovered insulin in the 1920s they provided the patent to a university to prevent commercial exploitation. Incentives in medicine have since changed, as have the relationship between universities and drug companies. In March 2016 the University of California at Los Angeles sold its royalty interest in an expensive prostate cancer medication for more than $1 billion.