ACHP Media Report: Pharmacy News – October 28, 2016

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Drug prices among top voter priorities
According to a monthly poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, voters are more concerned about issues related to prescription drug prices than the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Most voters, across all parties, are in favor of ensuring high-cost drugs for chronic conditions are affordable and health plans have enough physicians and hospitals to serve patients. Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News shares Democrats are seeking to modify the ACA by addressing high drug prices, while Republicans want to repeal the entire health law.

Pharmaceutical lobby increases funding
PhRMA, the pharmaceutical lobby, is upping member dues 50 percent as it prepares to spend hundreds of millions on ads to counter politicians on pricing. Both Democrats and Republicans have called for government negotiations of Medicare drug prices and have spoken out about the high cost of life-saving drugs. Sarah Karlin-Smith and Anna Palmer of Politico explain PhRMA member companies will now pay an additional $100 million per year.

Pharmaceutical companies fight California ballot initiative on drug prices
Drugmakers are concerned their efforts to defeat a California ballot initiative on drug prices may be ineffective. The measure, Proposition 61, aims to lower the price of drugs by prohibiting state agencies from paying more for pharmaceuticals than the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. PhRMA has raised $100 million to defeat the new requirements according to Caroline Chen of Bloomberg.

Purdue Pharma paid PBM to prevent limits on opioid prescriptions
Court records reveal that OxyContin producer Purdue Pharma paid rebates to pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) Merck Medco to prevent restrictions on opioid prescriptions. Officials at West Virginia’s state health plan had asked the PBM to put provisions in place requiring prior approval from the plan before the drug was prescribed, but were refused. The over-prescription of pharmaceuticals, including OxyContin, has been blamed for the national opioid epidemic. West Virginia has been hard-hit by the opioid epidemic, suffering the highest per capita drug overdose death rate in the country, reports David Armstrong of STAT.

EpiPen alternative to be reintroduced next year
Consumers will soon have an alternative to the EpiPen. Kaleo Pharmaceuticals is planning to return the Auvi-Q epinephrine auto-injector to market in 2017. Much like EpiPen, the Auvi-Q device injects epinephrine to treat a severe allergic reaction. Sanofi, which previously owned Auvi-Q, pulled the device from the market last year after several complaints it did not deliver a reliable dosage. Kaleo, the inventor of Auvi-Q, bought back the product in February. Alison Kodjak of NPR reports.

Advocates oppose biologic exclusivity in TTP implementing bill
The AFL-CIO, AARP, Oxfam America, Doctors Without Borders and Consumers Union jointly sent a letter to President Obama on Wednesday asking 12 years of domestic biologic exclusivity be omitted from the Trans-Pacific Partnership implementing bill. In the letter, the group asserts the 12-year rule would undercut future efforts to offer 7 years of exclusivity, which would help cheaper biosimilars come to market sooner. Nicholas Florko of Inside Health Policy has the story (subscriber’s content).

Earlier this week:

Cigna changes opioid treatment policy
Cigna Corp. will no longer require prior authorization to cover medication treating opioid addiction. Concerned about barriers to treatment, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sought details on Cigna’s coverage policies and found patients sometimes had to wait several days for coverage approval of medication. Jeanne Whalen and Anna Wilde Mathews at The Wall Street Journal have the story (subscriber’s content).

Medicare drug cost increase is under review
Health officials are looking at ways to curb Medicare’s rising pharmaceutical costs. In 2017 the cost of the Medicare Part D program may rise to more than $100 billion. Kerry Young of CQ Roll Call writes drugmakers have been more open-minded about pricing based on the quality of the drug (subscriber’s content).

Groups shift liability for high drug prices
The Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a trade association serving the biotech industry, released an advertisement yesterday showing the large portion of drug profits that goes to the middleman, not the pharmaceutical company. Anna Edney and Robert Langreth of Bloomberg report the health care industry is shifting responsibility for high drug prices among various stakeholders as Congress gears up to take action on the issue.