Welcome to the Week in Review.

1. Pushing for Transparency

In the health care policy arena, the focus centers around the passage of the Lower Costs, More Transparency Act (HR 5378). With bipartisan backing, this legislation seeks to increase transparency and affordability in healthcare pricing practices. One important provision of the bill requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to streamline the approval process for generic drugs by mandating that the FDA explain to generic drug companies why their applications were not approved and therefore better enable them to address issues that might stand in the way of their future approval. If passed, this provision would not only help increase competition but is also projected to result in over $800 million in cost savings. Facilitating generic entry is a key step toward reshaping the pharmaceutical landscape to lower costs for patients. Ironically, current negotiations between the House and Senate underscore the lack of transparency in the dynamics themselves that are shaping healthcare policies for patients. (MoneyTalks News, STAT News)

2. Easing the Burden for People on Medicare

In a significant development for many people on Medicare, the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act cap on out-of-pocket expenses for Part D drugs has gone into effect. This year, many individuals on Part D plans and who only take brand-name drugs will pay no more than $3,300 out of pocket annually for their medications, eliminating the 5 percent coinsurance after reaching the catastrophic spending threshold. The cap is expected to bring relief to approximately 1.5 million people, leading to substantial savings for patients. By 2025, the cap will further decrease to $2,000. In a piece from the Wall Street Journal, Patients For Affordable Drugs patient advocate Judy Aiken, who faced over $9,000 in out-of-pocket costs last year for her medication, Enbrel, expressed relief, emphasizing the positive financial impact of the cap on her well-being. David Mitchell, founder and president of P4AD, highlighted the remarkable savings this change brings and the crucial protection it offers to people on Medicare. These savings come at the same time as a notable escalation in list prices for a range of widely prescribed medications, including those by pharmaceutical giants like Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly. This is despite the outlier in some of the older and competing insulins which saw a January 1 price drop for some of their older competing insulins timed to avoid paying additional rebates and following years of patient advocacy to lower the price of insulin. (KFF, WSJ, P4ADNow, NPR, Forbes, WSJ, CNN)

BONUS: Public Citizen and AARP, both prominent advocates for lowering drug prices, have released reports this week. Public Citizen’s report emphasizes the pharmaceutical industry’s disingenuous opposition to drug pricing regulations, revealing that major drug manufacturers spent billions more on activities such as stock buybacks and executive compensation than on research and development. Meanwhile, AARP’s Rx Price Watch series provides a comprehensive analysis of prescription drug pricing trends, highlighting the staggering annual costs faced by Americans, particularly older adults, and the disproportionate impact on people on Medicare. These reports are important tools for the ongoing conversation on drug costs and the need for comprehensive reforms. (Public Citizen, AARP)