Drug pricing straight talk.

I read an interesting online piece from CNN Money the other day. If you haven’t had a chance, read it HERE. I’ll wait.

Although I was surprised at first that the director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would weigh in on drug pricing, I have to say that his comments here are pretty much what I would expect, and it’s what I’ve been thinking for a while too.

Indeed, there have been drug companies playing fast and loose with the rules governing when their drugs could be available to be made as generics. There have been, in some cases, instances of companies restricting access to brand name drugs for makers of generics who want to use them to help develop their own products, and use them for comparison in clinical trials to help measure efficacy of their generic versus the brand name benchmark.

In true drug company and pharmacy benefit manager fashion, there is a lot of gray area in the rules governing what can be made generic when, and how. In a way, you can understand it from their point of view… they don’t want to see a lot of their profit go away because a generic (or in the case of insulin, a biosimilar) could be purchased for much less than the original product.

Yet we’ve seen generics make a huge difference in the affordability of high blood pressure and high cholesterol drugs. It would be nice to purchase our diabetes drugs for far less than we purchase them today. Can’t we make this happen?

I think that’s what the FDA Director is saying here. He uses political terms like “free market”, but at least he acknowledges that the needs of patients should trump a 20-plus year near monopoly for a particular medication.

We are seeing changes, slow changes in insulin now. Novo Nordisk’s Fiasp is a very fast-acting insulin, and over the next few years, it may change a lot of how people manage their diabetes. If it does, expect to see prices drop for Novolog. We’ve seen the first biosimilar insulin in the United States in Eli Lilly’s Basaglar, and that has already had an effect on the price of Sanofi’s Lantus, which it is biosimilaring(?). Plus, my endo suddenly has lots of free Lantus samples to pass along.

I completely believe this statement from Dr. Gottlieb, in describing the various changes under consideration by the FDA:

“All of these steps are going to have an impact, and I don’t think there’s one silver bullet,” Gottlieb said. “If anyone [thinks] there is one thing you can do with policy intervention that is going to dramatically change drug prices, that’s not true.”

It’s going to take a lot of effort on the part of regulators, advocates like you and me, and yes, industry to shepherd a change in the approach of brand name and generic drugs. We’re not going to get down to a few dollars out of pocket for our insulin prescription. But hopefully, as time goes by, we’ll see additional choice, both in medications and the cost of those medications.

I think that would qualify as making something happen.

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Comments

  • Lawrence 'Rick' Phillips  On February 20, 2018 at 8:17 pm

    What we need to know is what is going on as vest we can. For that reason I I am unhappy that people in our community often criticize those who talk to those who make benefit, product and payer decisions. We have to break that cycle before we can even get a seat at the table. I want a seat at this table.

    Liked by 1 person

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