KHN Morning Briefing

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New Medicare List Of Most Expensive Drugs Shows ‘Eye-Popping’ Price Hikes

Data released by federal officials show the price of an anxiety drug rose 1,264 percent. At the top of Medicare spending is a hepatitis C prescription drug and a form of insulin, which together cost more than $11 billion in 2015.

The Wall Street Journal: Medicare Identifies Which Prescription Drugs Were Costliest In 2015
Medicare released new data identifying prescription medicines that had sharp price increases and those that accounted for its largest total spending in 2015. Medicare spending on Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc.’s diabetes drug Glumetza more than quadrupled to $153 million in 2015 from 2014, driven by a total price increase of 381%, according to the data, released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Glumetza prescription unit volume within Medicare declined 7% over the same period. (Walker, 11/14)

Stat: Hepatitis C Medicine The Biggest Drug Cost For Medicare, Medicaid
The latest dive into Medicaid and Medicare prescription drug data shows that the federal health care programs spent more on the Harvoni hepatitis C treatment last year than any other medicine. Medicare Part D spent slightly more than $7 billion on the Gilead Sciences product, while Medicaid coughed up nearly $2.2 billion for the drug, according to data released today by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The agency released its latest dashboard, an interactive tool that chose a few dozen drugs for which spending or unit costs rose by notable amounts, as well as those brand and generic medicines that contributed to large program spending overall. (Silverman, 11/14)

CNBC: Drug Price Shock: Feds Reveal How Medication Costs Hit Medicare And Medicaid
New data on drug spending by the nation's two biggest health-coverage programs released Monday shows eye-popping price hikes for a number of medications, as well as steep overall costs for several drugs. Ativan, a drug that is used to treat anxiety, had an average unit cost increase of a stunning 1,264 percent between 2014 and 2015 for Medicaid, the jointly run federal-state health coverage program primarily for poor people, officials revealed. (Mangan, 11/14)

The Washington Post: Drugs For Hepatitis C And Diabetes Drove Medicare Spending In 2015
A hepatitis C treatment and a form of insulin led Medicare drug spending, adding up to more than $11 billion in 2015, according to an update of a federal database that highlights the drugs the government spent the most money on overall and per person -- and which ones had the biggest price increases. Of particular concern is a rise in price of some generics, a class of drugs that are intended to decrease drug prices and spending. (Johnson, 11/14)

USA Today: Some Medicare, Medicaid Drug Prices Soar As Reform Uncertain
Medicaid spending on the drugs that have undergone the greatest price increases soared in 2015, according to federal statistics released Monday that show how much higher drug prices have affected government health care programs. Of the 20 drugs whose prices have increased between 140% and 500% between 2014 and 2015, spending went from $146 million to $486 million, the data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) show. (O'Donnell, 11/14)

And in an early analysis of access to expensive hepatitis C drugs --

Stat: Hepatitis C Drugs Still Being Restricted By State Medicaid Plans
Over the past two years, state Medicaid programs have done a better job of disclosing information about access to hepatitis C medicines and are also making progress in reducing or eliminating restrictions that pose a barrier to treatment, according to a new preliminary analysis. In 2014, 17 states did not make public their criteria for treatment, compared with just seven state programs this year. And in the past two years, 16 state programs cut or dropped restrictions to access based on a patients’ stage of liver disease, which has been a key test for determining treatment. (Silverman, 11/14)

The Fiscal Times: Lawsuits Force States To Give Outrageously Expensive Drugs To Medicaid Patients 
Many states, still reeling from the $100,000 price tag of providing biologic drugs to combat the deadly Hepatitis-C virus, continue to restrict access to the drugs to millions of veterans and low-income residents. However, the preliminary findings of a long-term Medicaid access study released on Monday documented a sharp decline in the number of states that restrict the use of Sovaldi and Harvoni -- the two most effective drugs for treating the disease -- to patients with the most serious advanced stages of liver disease or damage. (Pianin, 11/14)

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