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Industry gives president’s plan warm welcome

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NEW YORK — Chain drug retailers reacted favorably to President Trump’s drug price cutting plan; branded pharmaceutical manufacturers less so.

Walgreens, which had pharmacists at the White House for the president’s announcement of the proposal, said in a statement the blueprint “is a positive step forward in addressing the issue of rising drug prices.”

The retailer said it is committed “to partnership and collaboration with others in the supply chain to provide a better, more transparent and more effective approach to health care. We look forward to continuing to work with the administration and the entire pharmaceutical supply chain to help make medications more affordable and ­accessible.”

CVS Health sees every day “the impact rising drug costs have on our patients,” the company said. “That’s why we have developed and supported innovative solutions to lower health care costs, and we look forward to partnering with leaders to continue to do so. We commend the Trump administration’s focus on reducing the cost of prescription drugs, and we agree more can and needs to be done.

“CVS Health is already well positioned to implement many of the key proposals outlined by the administration. Today, CVS Health provides universal availability of rebates at the point of sale as an option for all clients to help their members save on out-of-pocket costs. We believe this approach leads to greater transparency in drug prices, and unquestionably demonstrates the true cause of rising drug costs for consumers: high list prices set by pharmaceutical manufacturers.”

But Stephen Ubl, president and chief executive officer of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said some of the administration’s proposed initiatives “would disrupt coverage and limit patients’ access to innovative treatments.”

“Proposed changes to Medicare Part D could undermine the existing structure of the program that has successfully held down costs and provided seniors with access to comprehensive prescription drug coverage,” he said. “We also must avoid changes to Medicare Part B that could raise costs for seniors and limit their access to lifesaving treatments.”

“Misaligned incentives in the supply chain are resulting in savings for middlemen, but higher costs for patients,” added Ubl. “After negotiations, medicine prices increased just 1.9% last year, below the rate of inflation, and yet patients’ out-of-pocket costs continue to skyrocket. Giving patients access to negotiated discounts at the pharmacy counter and protecting seniors in Medicare Part D from catastrophic costs would help make medicines more ­affordable.”

B. Douglas Hoey, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association, said, “The administration is attacking retroactive fees from all directions.” The Department of Health and Human Services is looking into getting rid of all rebates and going to a flat price, which would effectively take away incentives for PBMs to make more money from costlier drugs, he noted.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, which represents PBMs, said eliminating rebates and other price concessions “would leave patients and payers, including Medicaid and Medicare, at the mercy of drug manufacturer pricing strategies. PBMs have long encouraged manufacturers to offer payers alternative ways to reduce net costs. Simply put, the easiest way to lower costs would be for drug companies to lower their prices.”

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores said it will evaluate the White House plan through the lens of its advocacy for pro-patient and pro-pharmacy policies. “Across the spectrum of public policy issues, NACDS emphasizes that just as pharmacists provide access to better health care every day, we maintain a proactive footing in providing access to health policy solutions,” the association said. “In a national survey, 83% of voters said pharmacists provide credible advice for saving money on prescription drugs. We look forward to performing a similar role in this national conversation about affordable, accessible and quality health care.”


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