KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Perspectives: Cutting Back On Drug Coupons May Save Big Bucks Without Harm To Patients

Read recent commentaries about drug-cost issues.

Bloomberg: An Easy Way To Cut Drug Costs
In the absence of national action to control the high price of prescription drugs, California is considering a small state rule that could make a big difference. It targets a game that pharmaceutical companies play to keep people spending more than they need to on medicines. The rule, contained in legislation now on the governor's desk, would bar the use of coupons to help consumers cover the cost of co-payments for any brand-name drugs for which there is a generic alternative that works as well. (9/28)

RealClear Health: Lowering Hepatitis C Treatment Prices
American consumers have been inundated over the past few years by marketing campaigns for a growing range of anti-viral, biologic “cures” for Hepatitis C. The disease affects between 2.7 million and 3.9 million Americans, and between 75 and 85 percent of those who are infected with Hepatitis C are afflicted with the chronic variant. For an estimated 1 to 5 percent of Hepatitis C patients, it is the major cause of death from liver cancer and cirrhosis. (Thomas Hemphill, 10/2)

Motley Fool: Pfizer Exposes The Sordid Underbelly Of Drug Pricing
Johnson & Johnson's one of the largest drugmakers in the world, and according to a lawsuit Pfizer has filed, it's leveraging its size to negotiate contracts that prevent insurers from paying for cheaper biosimilars to Remicade, its best-selling drug. Pfizer's suit reveals the lengths to which drugmakers are going to keep sales flowing in from drugs even after patents expire, so let's take a closer look to see what's at stake. (Todd Campbell, 10/2)

Forbes: Big Pharma Doesn't Want Health Outcomes To Sway Pricing -- At Least Not Yet
When Novartis announced that the price of its new personalized gene therapy for cancer, Kymriah, would be $475,000, Wall Street analysts thought that was a relative bargain, but some health payers didn’t agree. Among the naysayers was Steve Miller, the outspoken chief medical officer of pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) Express Scripts. “We need a new payment model,” declared Miller in a blog post last week. He pointed out that $475,000 is much more than the price of the average specialty drug, and with at least 1,500 experimental gene therapies in the pipeline, the potential for the health care system to be overwhelmed by high-priced, one-time cures is great. That’s why, he said, new payment models should include “tracking [patients’] health outcomes over time to ensure payments aren’t being made if the treatment stops being effective.” (Arlene Weintraub, 9/29)

Bloomberg: AbbVie's Humira Is An Ageless Wonder
There are very few things biotech and pharma investors are inclined to under-value. But the stunning longevity of the world's best-selling drug -- AbbVie Inc.'s Humira -- might be one of them. Amgen Inc. on Thursday agreed to delay the launch of an Humira copycat until late 2018 in Europe and 2023 in the U.S. I've been skeptical of AbbVie's claims that it could keep Humira competition-free in the U.S. and grow the drug's sales through 2020. But now it seems it just might manage it.  (Max Nisen, 10/29)

Forbes: Fair Prices, Fair Play And Profitable Brands
The price of an Epipen injector has risen from around $100 for a two-pack in 2009 to more than $600 in 2016. Epipen is a life-saving emergency injector for people violently allergic to certain foods, such as peanuts: it will keep a person’s throat from closing up during anaphylactic shock. A year ago, as news spread about this enormous hike in prices, Congress summoned Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan, Epipen’s manufacturer, to find out why. She told them that, with rebates and insurance coverage, 85% of patients were actually paying less than $100 for the absurdly-priced medication. But that meant the insurance industry was paying the balance of those higher prices for those with coverage. And it would raise premiums accordingly. In other words, we would all be paying for those unreasonable profits. (Peter Georgescu, 9/27)

Bloomberg: Valeant Digs Into Its Leverage Spiral
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. has made some not-terrible business moves in the past few months. The troubled pharma firm has divested assets, raising cash to pay down debt. It has avoided big, public scandals over its accounting. It hasn't filed for bankruptcy. (Max Nisen and Lisa Abramowicz, 10/2)

Health Affairs: California Takes On Drug Pricing: Real Progress Or Illusion?
Californians and others around the country following the California legislature’s multiyear debate on prescription drug pricing may have stood up and taken notice on September 13 when the state Senate followed the Assembly in passing SB-17 to facilitate greater transparency in brand-name and generic drug pricing. While sponsors often make grandiose claims about the potential impact of their legislation, California senator Ed Hernandez may have set a new standard when he declared that the passage of SB-17 was “a monumental achievement for the entire nation” and “one of the most transformative pieces of health legislation in the country.” (Ian Spatz, 10/2)

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