Health care economist: PBMs part of the drug cost solution

President Donald Trump has said he will address the issue of the rising cost of prescription drugs.
President Donald Trump has said he will address the issue of the rising cost of prescription drugs. | File photo
Dealing with the thorny, and often contentious, issue of drug prices is likely to be front and center in the early days of President Donald Trump's administration, as arriving at a solution to curb increasing costs will prove a delicate balance for all those with a stake in the issue, according to a leading health economist.
Devon Herrick, health economist with the National Center for Policy Analysis, said it remains to be see whether Trump’s strident comments on curbing drug prices “are rhetoric or real threats.”
“President Trump has made numerous statements over the past year suggesting he’s willing to take drastic measures if drug companies do not stop the excessive price hikes,” Herrick told American Pharmacy News.
“Some of these statements include Medicare negotiating the prices of drugs for Part D plans and allowing reimportation. These are not traditional Republican ideas. But neither is Trump a traditional Republican.  It remains to be seen whether these statements are rhetoric or real threats; and whether drug companies will call his bluff."
The debate comes as drug manufacturers are facing increasing heat from the American public. A Harris Poll released just last week showed that only 26 percent of consumers believe that pharmaceutical companies “make a positive difference in the country,” compared to 51 percent for health care providers and 49 percent for hospitals.
A separate survey, conducted late last year by North Star Opinion Research for the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, found that three-quarters of voters say the cost of prescription drugs is too high, and 55 percent said that drug companies are most to blame for high drug costs.
“Pharma has a lot of lobbies, a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power,” Trump said at a news conference this month.
Herrick has been a proponent of the tools used by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to lower drug costs.
"Drugs are affordable for most consumers because of competition among pharmacy benefit managers,” wrote Herrick in a policy paper last July. "Drug plans managed by PBMs use a variety of techniques to control costs for their clients and consumers. With multiple clients, large national PBMs can negotiate lower prices from manufacturers, and therefore possess far more bargaining power than individual employers. They also negotiate with pharmacies and build preferred pharmacy networks."
In the meantime, the pharmaceutical industry is waiting to see what Trump -- and Congress -- will propose.  
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National Center for Policy Analysis 14180 Dallas Pkwy Dallas, TX - 75254

Pharmaceutical Care Management Association 325 7th St NW Washington, DC - 20004