State of the Union spotlights pharmaceutical problem in America

Pharmaceutical companies’ stocks took a hit just after the State of the Union address, when President Trump listed drug pricing as one of his “greatest priorities” this year.  Medication prices across the board have been rising sharply, occasionally with consequences from Washington.

For example, Turing Pharmaceuticals former CEO Martin Shkreli was called to appear before Congress when he raised the price of the AIDs medication Daraprim from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill in 2016.

There have not yet been any policy initiatives to force drug prices down, and until there are, prices are likely to continue to rise — with insurance companies finding more ways to pass this burden onto you, the consumer.

One of biggest changes I’ve seen among my own clients is many medications have changed tiers, resulting in a much higher cost share for members.  So a drug that was once in Tier 2 and covered with a $50 copay may now have switched to Tier 3 with a $150 copay — for the same drug at the same insurance carrier. That’s a pretty shocking price hike in a matter of just a few months.

I’ve also seen many insurance carriers adopt a Mandatory Generic Substitution for a growing number of medications. This requires members only receive the generic version of a drug, or pay the difference for the brand name version.

Then some drugs have fallen off of insurance carriers’ formularies altogether, meaning they are no longer covered at all.  Most often this happens when a drug has become so expensive even insurance carriers are having trouble paying for them. So imagine how the average consumer feels.

All in all, this is not a problem exclusive to 2018 alone, but it is a problem that will only get worse until sweeping changes are made to how drugs are priced. So please, Mr. President, make the drug industry great again.



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