ICER Weekly View: February 15, 2019

From the desk of David Whitrap

Good morning, everyone. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this week’s important questions (e.g., Is it really possible that Americans spend more than $18 billion per year on Valentine’s Day gifts? And why exactly are there so many mattresses going on sale this weekend?), I hope you can find comfort in one of the most optimistic sentences ever uttered: Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.

But back to pharmaceutical news. This week we’ll take a look at:

  • Different options for lowering drug prices internationally, in the US, and in each state;
  • How certain manufacturers are beginning to lower list prices voluntarily, and what that means for the rest of the industry;
  • The positive recommendation a depression treatment just received from the FDA Advisory Committee; and
  • Some concerning new findings about manufacturers influencing physicians’ prescribing habits.

Pharmaceutical News

From value-based pricing, to reference pricing, to tendering, the World Health Organization recently detailed several methods other countries are currently using to achieve lower drug prices than what we pay in the US.

A look at how other countries around the world set their drug prices

They’re all complicated and have their own drawbacks.

And if you tuned into the multiple drug pricing hearings that occurred over the past two weeks on Capitol Hill, you saw how the new Congress is considering how some of these techniques could be applied in the US. Perhaps of particular interest to recipients of this newsletter, there’s the proposed idea of Medicare negotiating toward a “third price based on independent research.”

Liberals worry Pelosi may pivot away from a bold drug price plan

A split between House Democratic leaders and rank-and-file members over how to lower drug prices is threatening the party’s efforts tries to make good on one of its biggest campaign promises just weeks into the new congressional session.

But it looks like California, like several other states, isn’t waiting for federal action to slow rising drug costs.

Can California Beat The Federal Government In Lowering Drug Prices?

California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’s done waiting for the federal government to curtail the rising cost of prescription drugs. Newsom has his own plan to ease that financial burden – one he hopes other states can join or replicate.

Some forward-thinking life science companies are getting ahead of the curve, too. This week, Regeneron and Sanofi announced they would lower the US list price of their PCSK9 inhibitor Praluent to $5,850 per year, matching Amgen’s similar reduction for Repatha.

Xconomy: Matching Amgen, Regeneron to Cut List Price of Heart Drug by 60%

Xconomy New York – Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and partner Sanofi are cutting the list price of their heart drug alirocumab (Praluent) by 60 percent, the latest acknowledgement that the treatment-which has shown a striking ability to lower cholesterol, but has struggled to sell because of its high price tag-isn’t getting to the patients who need it.

This sort of voluntary reduction of the list price might complicate matters for certain members of the supply chain. There are new reports that the pharmacy benefit manager OptumRx is asking manufacturers to keep rebates consistent, even if list prices are lowered.

A big PBM wants drug makers to agree to rebate demands- STAT

A s pressure mounts to overhaul opaque pharmaceutical pricing, OptumRx, one of the largest U.S. pharmacy benefit managers, recently demanded that drug makers make significant changes toward rebates, but in a way that would largely bolster its own bottom line.

Ahead of ICER’s assessment, the FDA Advisory Committee had a near-unanimous vote to recommend approval of esketamine for the treatment of depression.

F.D.A. Panel Recommends New Depression Treatment

The active ingredients of ketamine, a popular club drug, show promise in battling deep despair. In a move that may clear the way for the first new treatment in years for depression, an expert panel recommended on Tuesday that federal regulators approve a nasal spray that delivers the active ingredients of ketamine, a popular club drug in the 1980s and 1990s.

A new analysis finds that oncologists who receive payments over an extended period of time — mostly for speaking or consulting — are much more likely to prescribe a medicine made by the company that writes them a check. And the effect was seen even among physicians who only accepted $100 per year.

Drug company payments influence oncologists’ prescribing – STAT

A s the pharmaceutical industry churns out more cancer treatments, a new analysis finds that oncologists who receive payments over an extended period of time – mostly for speaking or consulting – are much more likely to prescribe a medicine made by the company that writes them a check.

And to wrap things up this week, I think this one speaks for itself:

Insys executives used rap video to push sales of potentially lethal opioid

Federal prosecutors alleged in court on Wednesday that a company at the center of a criminal investigation stemming from the nation’s opioid epidemic used a music video to motivate employees to push sales of a highly addictive fentanyl spray. Former executives and managers of Insys Therapeutics are accused of bribing doctors to prescribe the drug.

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