RADAR on Drug Benefits

  • Mass. Blues/PillPack Deal Shows Demand for Convenience

    Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts’ partnership with PillPack by Amazon Pharmacy may seem like just another way to offer home delivery of medications to members. But one industry analyst points to PillPack’s potential in improving adherence as the real differentiator, potentially leading to higher retention and acquisition of members.

    The Massachusetts Blues plan on Dec. 10 said it will be the nation’s first health plan to provide its members with access to online ordering and delivery of prescriptions by Manchester, N.H.-based PillPack.

  • HHS Importation Efforts Move Ahead, but Questions Remain

    Late last month, the Trump administration moved ahead with a proposed rule and draft guidance that could open the door to drug importation. The moves, it contended, would lower U.S. prescription drug prices. But skepticism exists as to whether the policies will ever be implemented, as well as if all involved entities would even participate in the efforts.

    An HHS notice of proposed rulemaking (84 Fed. Reg. 70796, Dec. 23, 2019) would allow states and certain nonfederal government entities to submit for review to HHS proposals for programs to import drugs from Canada that have been approved by Health Canada’s Health Products and Food Branch. Those programs also may have co-sponsors, which could be a pharmacist, a wholesaler, another state or another nongovernment entity. Drugs not eligible for importation include controlled substances, biologics, infusibles, intravenous injectables, drugs inhaled during surgery, certain parenteral drugs and drugs with Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS).

  • Nearly 500 Medications See Price Hikes in New Year

    After only one week into the new year, drug manufacturers have raised the list prices of almost 500 medications. On average, prices on 491 drugs have increased 5.2%, according to GoodRx, a company that tracks the cost of more than 3,000 medications. Neos Therapeutics, Inc.’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder treatment, Cotempla XR, saw a price jump of 13.2%, the largest increase so far in 2020. Merck & Co., Novartis International AG and Allergan plc are among the companies that raised prices on several of their products, Reuters reports, citing a 3 Axis Advisors analysis. Novartis increased prices on nearly 30 drugs, including one of the most commonly prescribed medications, Cosentyx, which treats moderate to severe plaque psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis. Pfizer Inc.’s Diazepam, a treatment for anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal symptoms and muscle spasms, saw a price increase of 7.8%.
  • 2020 Outlook: State Lawmakers Tee Up Bills on PBMs, Drug Pricing This Year

    State lawmakers will continue to focus on the cost of prescription drugs as the 2020 legislative season gets underway, potentially advancing measures to require the disclosure of manufacturer drug pricing information and bills to limit or eliminate the role PBMs play in state Medicaid programs.

    However, the abbreviated length of the election-year legislative sessions, plus some unexpected hiccups in states that already have passed bills on those issues, could limit how much actually gets done at the state level in 2020, legislative observers say.

  • 2020 Outlook: ‘Wild Year’ Is Expected for Large, Consolidated PBMs

    Though the two major transactions that upended the PBM landscape — Cigna Corp. buying Express Scripts Holding Co. and CVS Health Corp. acquiring Aetna Inc. — have already taken place, that doesn’t mean the sector won’t see more changes this year, industry experts tell AIS Health. Not only will those companies be tasked with proving that their vertical combinations can deliver significant value, but they will have to feed the market’s appetite for innovation while differentiating their unique business models from competitors.

    “The market is evolving,” says Brian Anderson, a principal with Milliman, Inc. The year 2020 will be marked by a presidential election and significant price pressure on manufacturers, along with pharmacies trying to retain their margin, he adds, “so it’s going to be a really wild year.”

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