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All Eyes On Sky-High Specialty Drug Costs

by Alicia Caramenico

February 2, 2017

Everybody’s talking about it – policymakers, patients, health plans, the media, even the president. And we all agree that exorbitant drug prices are a big problem that needs to be addressed. Stakeholders across the health care system are moving toward solutions for sustainable and affordable pricing, and employers are no exception.

Growing health care costs continue to be a major challenge for U.S. employers, and they cite the high prices of specialty drugs as the main driver behind these escalating costs, according to a new survey from the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) – a non-profit association of large employers. It’s not hard to see why: specialty drugs typically cost $100,000 per patient per year. As the NBGH noted, it’s not just the launch price of new specialty drugs but the continuous price hikes for drugs already on the market. For example, the cost of Actimunne, which comes in at a whopping $572,292 per patient per year, has soared 866 percent since 2012.

With sky-high drug prices financially draining employers and their employees, NBGH has released policy recommendations for controlling rising drug prices. It proposes eliminating financial incentives that encourage Medicare providers to prescribe more expensive medicines, in more expensive settings. The employer group also calls for the use of lower-cost biosimilars and reforms that would prohibit the abuse of patent and exclusivity protocols, which would help give consumers better access to affordable medicines.

As we’ve seen so far this year, the debate – and frustration – over pharmaceutical pricing will continue. Drug companies can’t keep distracting from the real issue — the barrier high prices create for public health and access to life-saving drugs. We all need to work together toward market-based solutions that promote choice, competition, and affordability.