Tag: "drugs"

Wholesale Drug Price Transparency Laws Won’t Lower Costs

Price transparency is an enormous benefit to consumers in retail markets. Consumers who make the effort to shop around often discover drug prices can vary from one pharmacy to the next. Retail drug prices are mostly transparent; patients generally encounter few problems when calling a pharmacy to ask what a given drug costs on their health plan. However, with the possible exception of buying an automobile, wholesale price transparency provides little benefit to consumers. The reason price transparency serves almost no purpose for consumers in wholesale markets is because consumers don’t buy from wholesale markets!

Efforts to Boost Generic Competition are Bearing Fruit

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a backlog of nearly 4,000 generic drug applications – each of which currently requires more than two years to approve. Over the past few years the FDA typically approved between 400 and 500 generic drugs a year. Under pressure from Congress, the agency hired 1,000 new employees and managed to approve (or tentatively approve) 99 drugs in December alone.  That is more than in any other single month.  The FDA has taken a lot of heat for the backlog. But the reality is actually more positive than many people realize. The primary reason for the backlog is competition; generic drug makers have filed an average of more than 1,000 abbreviated new drug applications (ANDAs) a year for the past four years. That is about one-third more than what the FDA expected. That is good news: Research finds that the average price of a generic drug relative to its brand prior to generic competition is inversely correlated to the number of competing firms producing a generic version. Basically, the more the merrier!

Misleading Rhetoric on Medicare Cancer Drug Payment Reform

man-in-wheelchairA few weeks ago, Medicare proposed a pilot program to test a new way to pay doctors who inject drugs. Cancer is the big kahuna, cost-wise, when it comes to injected drugs. Medicare payment policy leads to certain industry practices to profit from the status quo. When the status quo is threatened, the “preservatives” immediately form a defensive coalition to stop the change.

Although I do not endorse this precise reform, the campaign to roll it back has become irresponsible and misleading. Currently, physicians who inject drugs are paid by Medicare a margin of 6 percent on top of a reported price called the Average Sales Price (ASP). The concern is that the oncologists make more margin off an expensive drug than a less-expensive drug.

CPI: Medical Inflation Finally Under Control

BLSThe Consumer Price Index (CPI) for April confirmed medical inflation is matching the broad measure of price changes. For the second month, price changes for medical care (0.3 percent) were in line with all-items (0.4 percent). Although, it looks like a jump in energy prices drove the CPI up. If energy price increases moderate, we can expect prices for medical care to increase faster than CPI.

With respect to medical commodities, it prices of prescription drugs continued to increase faster than other medical commodities or commodities over all. Although, pharmaceutical price hikes in the CPI are not as big as in the Producer Price Index. Prices for many health goods and services actually dropped.

However, over the last twelve months, medical prices faced by consumers have grown much faster than non-health prices: 3.0 percent versus 1. percent. Prescription prices increased 4.0 percent, as did prices for inpatient hospital services. Health insurance increased 5.8 percent.

(See Table I below the fold.)

PPI: Pharma Price Hikes Continue To Stand Out

BLSThe Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand goods grew 0.2 percent last month, or 0.3 percent less food and energy. Prices for pharmaceutical preparations and most medical devices grew significantly faster, at 1.0 percent and 0.5 percent, although prices for X-Ray and similar equipment were flat.

With respect to final demand services, for which prices rose 0.1 percent (or 0.3 percent, less trade, transportation, and warehousing), prices of medical services changed similarly. However, prices for health insurance jumped 0.8 percent.

With respect to goods for intermediate demand, which dropped 0.3 percent, price increases for biologics, including diagnostics, stood out at 2.5 percent. With respect to services for intermediate demand, which rose 0.1 percent, prices for health insurance jumped 0.8 percent

Looking back over the 12-month period, the price increase of 10.4 percent for pharmaceutical preparations continues to stand out like a sore thumb. Political agitation against drug prices is unlikely to go away soon. Health insurance, having risen 1.7 percent in a flat or negative inflationary environment, is also beginning to stand out. (See Table I below the fold.)

Strong Opposition to Change in Part B Drug Reimbursements

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently proposed a pilot project to test alternative payment methods for drugs under Medicare Part B. These are the drugs administered in hospital outpatient clinics and physicians’ offices.

Are Prescription Drug Prices Becoming As Meaningless As Hospital Charges?

Professor Jack Hoadley of Georgetown University recently gave an excellent presentation discussing prices of prescription drugs. Two slides stand out. First, a slide showing how much prescription spending is controlled by insurers and governments versus patients directly:

20160415 Rx Prices

As recently as 1990, patients controlled over half of drug spending. Today, it is under 20 percent. Has this cost shift made drugs more “affordable”? Obviously not: 8 percent of patients do not take medicines as prescribed, because of cost. Hillary Clinton promises to impose government price controls on drugs if she becomes president.

CPI: Most Medical Price Hikes Stall

BLSThe Consumer Price Index for March indicates that medical price inflation matched changes in other prices charged to consumers, with a slight uptick of 0.1 percent. Prescription drugs (0.5 percent increase), nursing homes and adult day care, eyeglasses, and health insurance (all with 0.4 percent increases) stood out as continuing to experience higher inflation than other items. Prices for many health goods and services actually dropped.

However, over the last twelve months, medical prices faced by consumers have grown much faster than non-health prices: 3.3 percent versus 0.6 percent. Prescription prices increased 3.4 percent. However, inpatient hospital services and health insurance prices increased much faster, by 5.9 percent and 6.0 percent.

When we compare the medical components of the CPI with those in the Producer Price Index, it appears that hospitals, not drug makers, are shifting more prices directly onto consumers.

(See Table I Below the fold.)

PPI: Pharmaceutical Prices Up Amid Deflation

BLSDeflation in the Producer Price Index (PPI) continued last month, as the PPI for final demand dropped 0.1 percent from February. Prices for final demand goods, less volatile food and energy, increased 0.2 percent. Most prices for health goods for final demand were flat. The exception – again – was pharmaceutical preparations, for which prices increased 0.4 percent.

With respect to final demand services, for which prices dropped 0.2 percent (or increased just 0.1 percent, less trade, transportation, and warehousing), prices of medical services changed little. Even the price of health insurance remained flat, after an increase in February.

With respect to goods for intermediate demand, prices for chemicals (which go into pharmaceutical preparations) increased by just 0.1 percent, while prices of biologic products (including diagnostics) dropped the same percentage. With respect to services for intermediate demand, prices for health insurance remained flat, although prices for other intermediate services declined.

Looking back over the 12-month period, the price increase of 9.8 percent in pharmaceutical preparations continues to stand out like a sore thumb. Political agitation against drug prices is unlikely to go away soon. (See Table I below the fold.)

CPI: Health Insurance Premiums Jump Amid General Deflation

BLSThis morning’s Consumer Price Index corroborates yesterday’s Producer Price Index, which indicated health insurance and certain other health prices increased in a generally deflationary environment. While the CPI for all items dropped 0.2 percent in February, health insurance increased 1.3 percent. Over the last twelve months, CPI has increased just 1.0 percent, while health insurance has increased 6.0 percent.

Prescription drugs continue to stand out, as well, having increased 0.9 percent last month and 3.4 percent over twelve months. However, the increase in prescription prices alone cannot explain the health insurance premium hikes.

Inpatient hospitals services also stand out, having increased 0.6 percent last month and 4.8 percent in the last twelve months. Outpatient services are only slightly better.

February’s CPI confirms that, while nominal increases in health prices are moderate, real price increases are quite high, because we are in a generally deflationary environment.

(See Table I below the fold.)