KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Officials Give Drug Companies The OK To Help Patients With Costly Drug Co-Pays In Insurance Exchanges

Federal officials last week OK'd allowing pharmaceutical companies to help cover patient out-of-pocket costs for costly drugs in the health law's insurance exchanges, a closely watched move by drug companies and patient advocates.

The Wall Street Journal: Branded Drugs Chalk Up A Win Under Health Law 
Drug makers scored a significant win last week in their effort to increase sales from the rollout of the health care overhaul, when the Obama administration cleared a path for the companies to help pay patients' out-of-pocket costs of prescriptions. At issue was whether drug makers could help cover the cost of copayments on brand-name drugs for patients who get insurance through the overhaul's new insurance exchanges. The pharmaceutical industry spent about $4 billion on copayment assistance to patients in private health plans in 2011, according to an estimate by Amundsen Group, a consulting firm (Rockoff and Loftus, 11/3).

The Wall Street Journal: Kickbacks From Drug Makers Given All-Clear On Health Exchanges
The federal Department of Health and Human Services said it won’t hold the new insurance offerings available on state and federally run exchanges to the same anti-kickback standards maintained for federal health programs such as Medicare. The decision was closely watched by the drug industry and patient advocacy groups, which worried long-standing -- but controversial -- programs in which drug makers help patients pay copays for costly medicines would be barred in the new health plans (Weaver, 11/1).

In other pharmaceutical marketplace news -

NewsHour: Generic Drugs Don't Necessarily Mean Low Prices
NewsHour Weekend's Megan Thompson reports on the surprising disparity in pricing for generic drugs. Generics, generally thought to be cheap, can actually vary widely in price from pharmacy to pharmacy, causing some to skip medications altogether (Thompson, 11/2).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.