KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

High Drug Costs Take Backseat To ACA Overhaul, But Problem Won’t Disappear

News outlets report on stories related to pharmaceutical drug pricing.

Politico: Tackling High Drug Costs In The Trump Era
The rising costs of prescription medicines have made headlines for the past two years. From the dramatic new cancer breakthroughs to century-old drugs, spiraling price tags have caught lawmakers’ eyes. Martin Shkreli’s AIDS drug price hike and the soaring cost of EpiPen, insulin, and other lifesaving treatments have added to mounting public pressure. Polls show both Democratic and Republican voters consistently rate the cost of medicine as their No. 1 health concern. (11/28)

FiercePharma: Does A Trump Presidency Mean Changes For Pharma Advertising?
Donald Trump’s surprise presidential win has many industry executives taking a wait-and-see approach, including those in advertising. However, pharma company advertisers may not have as much to be wary about, according to industry executives interviewed by FiercePharma. One key reason is the ongoing steady flow of FDA drug approvals, which means pharma companies will need to market and advertise at a similarly steady pace to get the word out about new drugs and indications. (Bulik, 11/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Drugmakers Find Competition Doesn’t Keep A Lid On Prices
Pfizer Inc. raised the list price of Viagra by 13% in June. Less than a week later, Eli Lilly & Co. pushed up the price of its competing pill Cialis by the same percentage. ... The practice highlights what many see as a big problem in the drug industry: Even when there is competition, prices can continue to climb. That is because patients tend to stick with a drug that works for them, and health insurers and drug-benefit managers sometimes have contracts for drugs that prevent switching to cheaper options. (Rockoff, 11/27)

Bloomberg: Pharma CEO Hunts New Trophy After Prostate Cancer Blockbuster
A $110 million bet on a prostate cancer medicine gave Astellas Pharma Inc. a blockbuster that helped turn it into one of Asia’s most valuable drugmakers. Now, with patent expirations looming in 2019, Chief Executive Officer Yoshihiko Hatanaka is setting off on a hunt for his next best seller. Armed with about $3.6 billion in cash, the Japanese drugmaker is assessing various investment options. Astellas has a history of using deals to expand and on the company’s executive floor, banker plaques and trophies from deals are on prominent display. More acquisitions are possible and the Tokyo-based drugmaker’s internal growth team is also looking at new diseases to expand into, Hatanaka said in an interview. (Khan, 11/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Tandem Drug-Price Increases Take Toll On Some Patients
Pfizer Inc.’s Viagra and Eli Lilly & Co.’s Cialis dominate the $3.3 billion U.S. male-impotence-drug market, and the companies’ practice to raise prices in tandem has led both drugs to more than double in price in five years. After the two drugmakers raised their prices this summer, the highest dose of Viagra retails for $48.28 a tablet, while Cialis’s maximum dose costs $51.74 a tablet. (Rockoff, 11/27)

Wisconsin Public Radio: Costs Of Widely Prescribed Drugs Soar
Jess Franz-Christensen did not realize the seriousness of her son’s Type 1 diabetes diagnosis until staff in the doctor’s office offered to call an ambulance to take him to the hospital. Her next shock: The cost of Jack’s medicines. The drugs, administered through an insulin pump, cost $1,200 a month. (Kirkby, Hall and Bowden, 11/28)

Stateline: Drug Prices, Senior Programs May Deliver Blow To State Budgets
Higher prescription drug prices, combined with changes to Medicare and Social Security, could deal a $1.6 billion blow to state budgets next year by forcing them to ratchet up spending on Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor. Without congressional intervention, most state Medicaid agencies will have to come up with tens of millions of dollars to cover the bill. The new costs could prompt states to tighten eligibility requirements or cut benefits. (Ollove, 11/23)

FiercePharma: Pharma-To-Physician Social Media And App Marketing Will Soar By 2018: Report
Pharma companies’ marketing communications to their target audience of healthcare providers are increasingly digital. That's not terribly surprising, considering the uptake in digital channels among physicians for professional use. What is changing, however, is the way pharma reaches doctors, according to an annual report from from healthcare and pharma solutions provider Indegene. In 2016 in the U.S., brand promotional emails, healthcare provider portals and key opinion leader webinars are the top three ways pharma companies reach out. However, by 2018, KOL webinars, social media and mobile apps will top the list, with social media and mobile apps growing the fastest, by 50% and 27%, respectively. (Bulik, 11/25)

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