KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Drug Makers: Most People Don’t Pay Retail

Executives are pushing back against the recent outcry over high drug costs, saying media outlets are focusing on the list prices rather than the discounted ones they say consumers are actually paying. In other pharmaceutical news, Merck settles a class action lawsuit over a painkiller it pulled from the market, and the costs of targeted cancer drugs is growing.

Reuters: Major Drugmakers Push Back In U.S. Price Debate
With a backlash brewing over the price of medicines in the United States, drugmakers are pushing back with a new message: Most people don't pay retail. Top executives from Eli Lilly and Co, Merck & Co and Biogen Inc said in interviews with Reuters this week that the media focus on retail, or "list prices," for branded medications is misplaced. They stressed that the actual prices paid by prescription benefit managers, insurers and other large purchasers are reduced through negotiated discounts. (Humer, 1/15)

The Associated Press: Merck Pays $830 M To Settle Class-Action Case Over Vioxx
Merck will pay $830 million to resolve a federal class-action lawsuit involving shareholders and the painkiller Vioxx, which the drugmaker pulled from the market years ago over safety concerns. Merck said Friday that the case involved people who purchased its securities between 1999 and 2004. The litigation focused on statements Merck made regarding Vioxx's cardiovascular safety. Merck & Co. Inc. removed Vioxx from the market in 2004 after evidence showed it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke. (1/15)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Costs Of Targeted Anticancer Drugs Growing Faster Than Usage
If you develop cancer, will you be treated with a targeted drug? A recent study led by the MD Anderson Cancer Center indicates more than a quarter of U.S. cancer patients are getting such precision therapies - which now dominate anticancer drug spending. The study, published last year in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, analyzed a private health insurance database and found 31 targeted drugs were given to 26 percent of cancer patients under age 65 between 2001 and 2011. The study didn't include Medicare patients or more than a score of targeted drugs approved since 2011, so current usage is greater. (McCullough, 1/17)

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