A leaked letter is fueling a new fight in healthcare over who’s to blame for the high cost of prescription drugs (UNH)


Walgreens pharmacy pharmacist

A leaked letter is fueling a battle between drugmakers and the middlemen in charge of negotiating discounts on prescription drugs.
In the letter, a middleman in the drug business demanded almost two years of advance notice from pharma companies before they lower the prices of their drugs, according to a note to investors from Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal.
According to Gal, the middleman, OptumRx, also made a second demand of the pharmaceutical companies that could make it difficult for those companies to reduce the list prices of their medications.
OptumRx said the goal of its letter was to make sure its costs for Medicare prescription plans are predictable, so that it can set the appropriate prices.

A leaked letter from one of the most powerful middlemen in healthcare is fueling fresh finger-pointing over who should bear the blame for the high cost of prescription drugs in the US.

In the letter, a middleman in the drug business demanded almost two years of advance notice from pharma companies before they lower the prices of their drugs, according to a note to investors on Friday from Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal. According to Gal, the middleman, OptumRx, also made a second demand of the pharmaceutical companies that could make it difficult for those companies to reduce the list prices of their medications.

Analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch said the letter raised worries that OptumRx was pressuring drug companies not to cut their prices.

“This would feed into the narrative that the middlemen in the supply chain are part of the problem for high drug costs,” they said in a research note on Friday.

OptumRx said the goal of its letter was to make sure its costs are predictable, so that it can set the appropriate prices for prescription-drug insurance plans. The company, which is a unit of the $250 billion healthcare giant UnitedHealth Group, declined to provide a copy of the letter.

The letter applies to prescription drugs that OptumRx covers as part of the government-funded drug insurance plan for the elderly, called Medicare Part D.

“Our goal in asking for advance notice of price changes in the lengthy Part D bid process is to achieve greater transparency and predictability in consumer premiums and out-of-pocket costs,” Matt Stearns, a spokesman for OptumRx, said by email.

List prices for pharmaceutical have been increasing over the past decade. But many drug companies have said that net prices — which factor in discounts and rebates negotiated by pharmacy benefit managers on behalf of employers and insurers — have increased far less, or even declined. They say consumers are paying high out-of-pocket costs for their drugs because of policies set by insurers and pharmacy benefit managers.

Drugmakers currently pay out more than $100 billion in rebates annually. Rebates are a big business for PBMs such as Express Scripts, CVS Caremark, and OptumRx.

Read more: The Trump administration just took its biggest step yet to bring down the cost of prescription drugs — and it’s dividing the healthcare industry

Rebates were …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Finance

      

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