Trump administration tackles drug advertising

Coming this summer: another addition to the “fine print” on all those drug commercials. Under a new rule announced this month by the Trump administration, pharmaceutical companies will have to reveal how much their drug costs during TV commercials.

The rule is set to go into effect this summer and will require drug companies to include the price of a drug if it exceeds $35 for a 30-day supply, or the usual course of therapy.

The move is meant to increase transparency in the industry and ideally force pharmaceutical companies to lower its sticker prices on drugs for fear of appearing too expensive.

“Requiring the inclusion of drug list prices in TV ads is the single most significant step any administration has taken toward a simple commitment: American patients deserve to know the prices of the healthcare they receive,” said Alex Azar, Health and Human Services secretary.

As expected, drug companies pushed back on the new rule. Representatives said they fear including drug prices during commercials will discourage customers from asking their physicians about the drug because they believe they cannot afford it. The new rule stipulates listing the price before any discounts or health insurance coverage, which could lower the cost.

It is notable, however, that because of rising costs an increasing number of Americans are being forced onto high deductible health plans, which can often lack the comprehensive drug coverage required to significantly reduce the cost of prescriptions.

“If drug companies are ashamed of those prices—lower them,” President Donald Trump tweeted shortly after the rule was announced.

Industry experts do not necessarily oppose the new rule, but are skeptical it will result in substantial cost reductions, especially because enforcement of the law is left to the drug companies themselves.

If one drug company fails to include the pricing information in an ad, a competitor can file a lawsuit under the deceptive and unfair trade practice provisions of the Lanham Act. No additional oversight plan has been announced by the Trump administration.

The consensus among Americans appears to be that added transparency in the pharmaceutical industry may be helpful, but is no guarantee. According to a POLITICO/Harvard poll in the summer last year, 63 percent of Americans favored including price information in drug advertisements, but only 28 percent believed it would lower costs.

As for the ClaimLinx team, we don’t expect this to bring about big change in the industry. If it does, though, you can bet we will be ready to use it to our advantage to lower costs for members and clients.

President Trump highlights healthcare in State of the Union

Health care has long been a priority for the Trump administration, and the President used his State of the Union speech this week to highlight his priorities when it comes to improving health and bringing down costs for consumers.

Ahead of the speech, the Trump administration released its plan to curb drug prices for Americans, especially those under 65. His plan proposes eliminating the legal protections that allow pharmacy benefit managers to accept rebates from drug companies for brand-name drugs. Rebates would instead be credited to patients when they fill their prescriptions at the pharmacy.

These after-the-fact discounts are seen by many as one of the driving factors pushing up the list price of drugs. President Trump focused on the struggle this can cause, as many Americans are increasingly responsible for paying larger portions of these prices.

He also called for more transparency in general in the healthcare industry, asserting that if  hospitals, drug companies and insurers had to “disclose real prices,” consumers would have more information that would foster more competition.

“It is unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place. This is wrong, this is unfair, and together we will stop it. We will stop it fast. I am asking the Congress to pass legislation that finally takes on the problem of global freeloading and delivers fairness and price transparency for American patients.”

There is bipartisan support in Congress for legislation to bring down drug prices and to improve healthcare pricing overall, but any bill would likely face strong opposition from lobbyists from pharmacy benefit managers, pharmaceutical companies and insurers.

Complicating the issue as well is the current climate in Washington with the divided government. It is still unclear if Congress will be able to work with the President on key issues like these, while so much time and energy is being spent on other subjects, like border security and the government budget.

President Trump went on to talk about his hopes for increased funding for research on treatments for childhood cancer and a cure for HIV and AIDS in the United States within the next 10 years. He called on Democrats and Republicans to pass his budget, which seeks additional funding for the National Institute of Health for both initiatives.

Both priorities are largely seen as an outreach to Democrats and as issues the country could unify around. No specific legislation outside of the budget proposals have been released.

Overall, President Trump’s State of the Union address covered a wide range of topics but his focus on these initiatives shows healthcare remains a priority for the administration.

It will be a game of watch-and-see as Trump’s own campaign for reelection becomes increasingly underway. He may want to tout a big legislative win regarding healthcare on the campaign trail, especially as efforts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act were unsuccessful early in his presidency.

 

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.

Related Post: Drugmakers Pfizer and Allergan Merge for Tax Break

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.

Related Post: Drug Coverage Changes With Continued Spending Hike

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.

Use The ClaimLinx Prescription Savings Card

We have seen how much prescriptions costs are rising for all of our members. So we have been sending prescriptions savings cards (see above) to members along with their Explanation of Benefits (EOB).

Related Post: ClaimLinx Prescription Drug Card Services

See the sample of the insert members have been receiving with the ClaimLinx Prescription Savings Card.

Why does this savings card benefit members?

  • Big discounts – The price for 80% of the most used generic drugs is lower with the card than insurance copays of $10 or more.
  • Easy to use – Members just have to give the card to the pharmacist to start receiving discounts.

Related Post: See ClaimLinx’s Complimentary Elite Services for Clients

The exclusive ClaimLinx prescription savings card can be ordered by emailing help@claimlinx.com or by following the instructions on the insert.

Drug Coverage Changes With Continued Spending Hike

Spending on prescription drugs rose by 5.2 percent in 2015 and is projected to continue to climb, much faster than overall health spending, in the coming years.

The increase is largely attributed to the high cost of specialty medications used to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. And greater medication use overall due to millions of Americans gaining access to insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act also contributed to the surge in spending.

Related Post: ClaimLinx Prescription Drug Card Services

As it stands though the rise of powerful, expensive prescription drugs has become the greatest drain on American pocketbooks. Spending on specialty medications rose 18 percent last year, while spending on standard drugs rose less than one percent, according to a report by the largest prescription benefit manager in the U.S., Express Scripts Holding Co.

The report also found the average price of brand-name drugs on the market increased by 16.2 percent in 2015 and has jumped 98.2 percent since 2011. One-third of brand-name prescription drugs had price increases exceeding 20 percent last year.

Still, this year’s increase is half the rate in 2014, which spiked to 12.6 percent, the largest price jump since 2003.

What was different in 2015 is that the overall boost in costs was moderated by more restrictions from pharmacy benefit managers and insurers. These companies exerted more control over the drugs their costumers could get access to, as they were more willing to refuse coverage of expensive medications than in the past.

Related Post: Senate digs into why drug prices are so high

This trend will likely continue as drug prices continue to rise in the coming years, forcing many customers to become more flexible with accepting generic drugs over their name-brand counterparts.

Cumulatively from 2013 to 2018, prescription drug spending is expected to rise by an average of 7.3 percent annually, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services.

This is down from the spike observed in 2014 but is still higher than before 2013, when the country observed unusually slow growth — spending rose about 2 percent between 2008 and 2012.

For this reason, drug spending will continue to be a growing concern for clinicians, insurers and customers alike.