U.S. President Trump has drafted an executive order on the topic of drug prices. The pharma industry is probably pleasantly surprised and pharma critics are probably confused and angry. What? They don’t agree? Crazy, right? According to the NY Times, the administration looks to be taking an indirect route to lowering drug costs by easing regulations on the drug industry with the expectation that lower costs to drug makers will translate to lower drug costs. In other words, all that “getting away with murder” stuff has softened considerably, at least as it relates to this executive order. InsightCity is taking a bold wait-and-see approach as to whether this is the end of Trump’s pharma crack-down. “Crack-down” doesn’t feel like quite the right word, does it?
The formula for rising healthcare costs in the US is filled with a bunch of pointed fingers lately. One finger is being pointed at drug maker Kaléo (no, not that Kaleo) by pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts. They’re suing Kaléo over its price hikes on a heroin/painkiller overdose treatment. According to Express Scripts, these hikes triggered price protection rebates owed to Express Scripts, which total around $14 million—most of the lawsuit. The PBM has successfully sued larger drug companies like Horizon, so Kaléo may be at a bit of a disadvantage here. Especially since Express Scripts could use the extra cash to deal with the fingers pointed at it, including one $15B lawsuit by its (soon-to-be former) largest customer, the insurance provider Anthem.
Drug pricing is hot. Want proof? According to The New York Times, there are six major drug pricing bills under consideration. For those who require it, here’s a refresher on the U.S. legislative process. Two of the proposed bills focus on the approval of generic medications. One would require pharma companies to give notice before price increases. Another would allow U.S. citizens to import cheaper drugs from other countries. Two others would require PBMs to disclose rebate levels and increase transparency. Additionally, President Trump is asking why the government does not negotiate prices it pays for Medicare. Net-net: there are lots of spaghetti strands being thrown at the drug pricing refrigerator, let’s see what sticks.
A recent NY Times op-ed piece and a corresponding Letter to the Editor talk about how importing generic drugs might lower healthcare costs in the US and stop what the op-ed writer perceives as price gouging. The op-ed position: just do it. The letter to the editor position: not so fast. Relationship status: it’s complicated. There are obvious concerns about drug safety and the US is making strides in protecting the drug supply with its track and trace efforts. That said, the letter to the editor proposed an interesting idea: “…speedily approve any sound generic drug application from a nonprofit entity for a drug whose price has risen sharply.” That’s one idea, but why just from nonprofits? Come on, people. More ideas required! Have an opinion on this? Participate in this week’s FastPoll™ below.
Give a man a drug and you can treat him for a day; teach a man to make his own drugs and you can treat him for a lifetime. At least that’s the goal for the pharmaceutical hacker attempting to create open-source drugs for the public. To fight drug makers, who some believe gouge patients for lifesaving drugs (i.e. EpiPen, Daraprim), mathematician Dr. Mixael Laufer launched the Four Thieves Vinegar collective – a group determined to reverse engineer critical pharmaceuticals so that they can provide to the general public instructions for making those drugs at home. While using home-made pharmaceuticals may seem unthinkable for most of us, those without the means to pay for the real deal may find it worth the risk. Yikes. Some of us can’t even make a grilled cheese sandwich.
Takeda has joined the ranks of increasingly price-conscious pharmaceutical companies that have pledged to keep their drug price hikes to “reasonable” levels in the coming year (see: Allergan, AbbVie, Novo Nordisk).The Japanese-based company recently announced it would maintain single-digit price increases, and added that its pricing model has been fair for years. However, it’s probably safe to assume that the announcement has something to do with Trump’s not-so-subtle cease and desist alarms to pharma about their rising drug prices. Certainly a push for drastic measures, but consider: in the wake of a sudden call for price lowering also comes a federal push to decrease pharma regulations, cut taxes, and speed up approval timelines for drug products. Looks like industry gods taketh away, then giveth right back.