KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Perspectives: Americans Shouldn’t Have To Pick Between Affording Food Or Affording Medicine

Read recent commentaries about drug-cost issues.

US News & World Report: Take On Big Pharma And Lower Prescription Drug Prices
The American people are sick and tired of getting ripped off by the pharmaceutical industry which, next to Wall Street, is one of the most powerful and greedy forces in our country. Each and every day my office hears from Americans who cannot afford their prescription drugs. People are having to choose between buying food or buying the medicine they need. Seniors are forced to split their pills in half. Some have lost their homes and declared bankruptcy because of their medical bills. (Sen. Bernie Sanders, 8/30)

Sacramento Bee: Here's Someone To Blame For Drug Prices
They operate in secret. They have no laboratories or research centers, and produce nothing. But they control a critical intersection of our health care system, influencing the price we pay for prescription drugs and skimming off billions of dollars for themselves. (Adrian Wong, 9/1)

Morning Consult: The Pharmaceutical Industry’s Social Contract With Patients
In recent months, the public outcry over drug prices has been somewhat drowned out by the controversy surrounding efforts to reform the Affordable Care Act. Although the administration is still expected to issue an executive order targeting drug pricing soon, the current lull presents an opportunity to evaluate recent efforts to constrain drug prices. In 2016, average prices for all drugs — brand, generic, and specialty — increased by an average of 8.77 percent. Although still a significant increase, 2016 prices increased by less than the over-10-percent increases seen in 2015 and 2014. (Joanna Shepherd, 9/5)

Modern Healthcare: Taxpayers​ Paying​ Twice​ For​ Drugs
Gilead Sciences has a knack for putting itself at the center of the drug pricing debate. The company drew public ire when it priced the hepatitis C drug Sovaldi at $84,000 after buying its developer for $11 billion. Last week, it agreed to pay $11.9 billion for Kite Pharma, whose non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment will sport a price tag above $500,000. Don't let the wow factors behind this new drug—personalized medicine, a one-time treatment course, potentially curative—mask what's actually driving its price. It's Wall Street, not the cost of developing the drug or its medical value. (Merrill Goozner, 9/4)

Sacramento Bee: Drug Price Bill Is Bad For Business, Patients
California is rightfully known as the birthplace of the biopharmaceutical revolution. Our state continues to be the leading home of innovative companies that are pioneering the new field of precision medicine to develop medications and doses tailored to individual patient’s genes. As a longtime entrepreneur in this sector, I am concerned that Senate Bill 17 will harm our ability to afford the costly and time-consuming process of bringing these therapies to market. (William J. Newell, 9/4)

Morning Consult: When It Comes To The Drug Pricing Debate, Talk Is Cheap
In the last several months, individual companies have begun to take actions in an attempt to address pricing concerns and demonstrate their ability to “self-police” — especially in the face of bad actors that have fueled hatred of the pharmaceutical industry by taking significant price increases on single-source products. ... But the question remains — to what extent have or will these actions actually make a difference in how these companies are perceived by the public and by legislators? (Chrystine Zacherau and April Claassen, 9/6) Here's How Pharmacy Benefit Managers Help Keep Drug Costs Down
There is so much rancor and finger pointing these days over prescription drug prices that consumers are often left to wonder: who is fighting on their behalf? The answer: pharmacy benefit managers. Companies and public programs providing prescription drug coverage hire PBMs for their expertise, and ability to reduce drug costs by negotiating for rebates and discounts from big drug companies and drugstores. (Edmund J. Pezalla, 8/30)

Stat: Gilead Sciences Boxed In By Novartis' Bargain-Bin CAR-T Price Strategy
The Swiss bean counters at Novartis (NVS) decided to be charitable with the pricing of its newly approved cellular therapy for cancer, and now, Gilead Sciences (GILD) is in a tough spot. By setting a $475,000 price for its CAR-T therapy — and indicating it will only charge for the drug if the patient responds — Novartis set a benchmark for the entire class. Gilead, of course, just bought Kite Pharma (KITE) for $12 billion with the expectation of bringing its CAR-T to market. Generating a decent return on that investment will be tougher if Gilead feels pressure to match Novartis’  “bargain” pricing strategy. (Adam Feuersein, 8/30)

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