Drugs work best when people can’t afford them … APRIL FOOLS!?
Welcome To The Week In Review.
- More Bipartisan Pressure On PBMs
- The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on Thursday about the impact pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) have on patients and taxpayers. “I believe this is an industry that is going in the wrong direction, and that’s having a big impact on the prices Americans are paying at the pharmacy counter,” Chairman Ron Wyden shared in his statement at the hearing. Senators on both sides of the aisle agree. Ranking Member Mike Crapo said, “Policymakers also need more line of sight into the black box of drug pricing relationships and transactions, especially as we look to pursue productive reforms in the future.” Cracking down on PBMs is gaining momentum to be “a major bipartisan effort,” that “the PBM industry is likely to challenge vigorously.” In 2022, the PBM trade group Pharmaceutical Care and Management Association spent $8.7 million on federal lobbying and then launched a seven-figure ad campaign earlier this year to try to counter arguments that the middlemen rake in profits while driving up costs. While the PBM industry throws money to try to maintain the status quo, bipartisan support for reform has never been stronger. “These are issues Democrats and Republicans all over the country and in Congress agree must be addressed,” Rep. Buddy Carter, a former pharmacist, explained. “The PBM lobby is powerful and influential, but it is not untouchable. We know how to fix this mess.” — (Senate Committee on Finance, Endpoints, Open Secrets, MM+M, The Hill)
2. “Saving Money Due To The Inflation Reduction Act”
- Patients continue to see savings thanks to the drug price reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act. People on Medicare living with HIV will save tens of thousands of dollars when the $2,000 out-of-pocket cap provision takes effect in 2025 — a welcome change, considering people on Medicare living with HIV have disproportionately high prescription costs, spending 14 times as much on Part D drugs than other people on Medicare in 2020. Elected officials and leaders continued to spread the word about the historic new drug price law this week. Senator Joe Manchin explainedhow the $35 monthly insulin copay caps are delivering “tremendous savings” for people on Medicare and emphasized that the soon to be implemented out-of-pocket cost caps and Medicare negotiation will bring much needed relief. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra discussed the law’s provision to insulate people on Medicare from drug company price hikes and detailed how free vaccines are providing relief to people on Medicare. “If you’re on Medicare – zero cost now out of your pocket to get [vaccines],” said Secretary Becerra. Martha in Wisconsin is relieved that seniors like her no longer have to worry about affording the shingles vaccine — shots that cost $200 out of pocket per dose. After meeting with Senator Tammy Baldwin, Martha wrote in an op-ed: “Mere months after making these vaccines free for those on Medicare, I know that seniors are already saving money due to the Inflation Reduction Act.” — (KFF, The Journal, TMJ4, Up North News)
3. Big Pharma Keeps Gaming The Patent System
- In the latest Big Pharma patent shenanigan, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is attempting to exploit our patent system to maintain its monopoly on its psoriasis and irritable bowel disease drug Stelara by delaying biosimilar competition from entering the market. J&J is trying to leverage patents it inherited from Momenta Pharmaceuticals when it purchased the company in 2020 to stall Amgen’s biosimilar version of the drug from coming to market. If successful, the move would allow J&J to continue to charge patients any price it wants for Stelara (which is worth almost $18 million per day in revenue for J&J). “It just goes to show the various different plays that are going on in order to delay Amgen coming in,” said Tahir Amin, co-founder of the Initiative for Medicines, Access, & Knowledge (I-MAK). Manufacturers of blockbuster drugs Keytruda and Humira have been manipulating the patent system in a similar fashion — blocking competition via patent thickets and forcing patients to pay unlimited, high prices. In light of these patent abuses and others, Reps. Jodey Arrington, Lloyd Doggett, Darrell Issa, Michael Burgess, and Ann Kuster sent a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) Director, Kathi Vidal, urging her to move forward with policies at the USPTO that would crack down on patent thickets and increase generic and biosimilar competition to lower drug prices. “Too often, Big Pharma’s masterful innovation is in creating new, manipulative ways to maintain monopoly power and charge monopoly prices,” shared Rep. Doggett. Rep. Arrington said: “I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort to reform our patent system and increase competition so seniors and families have better access to affordable treatments.” We are grateful that members of Congress are advocating for patients — we must unrig our patent system and allow competition to lower drug prices. — (BioPharma Dive, Drug Discovery & Development, Representative Jodey Arrington)
BONUS: Another bill to hold Big Pharma accountable! Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Amy Klobuchar introduced the Lower Drug Costs for Families Act, which would build on the Inflation Reduction Act by extending the inflationary rebate penalty to protect patients with private insurance as well as Medicare. ?
Have a great weekend, everyone!