Drug Prices After the Midterms: Five Crucial Implications of Pharmacy Benefit Design

After Tuesday’s election, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi pointed to “reducing the cost of prescription drugs” as a legislative priority. But addressing patient affordability issues will require more than decrying “high drug prices.” Today, I highlight five implications of these benefit designs on patient affordability, out-of-pocket costs, and perceptions of prescriptions prices. My observations are based on Employer Pharmacy Benefits in 2018: More Tiers, Greater Coinsurance, and Lots of High-Deductible Plans, in which I summarized companies’ 2018 prescription drug coverage for their employees. As I explain below, many aspects of employers’ plans are unfriendly to patients with serious medical conditions … Continue reading Drug Prices After the Midterms: Five Crucial Implications of Pharmacy Benefit Design

Employer Pharmacy Benefits in 2018: More Tiers, Greater Coinsurance, and Lots of High-Deductible Plans

It’s time for a deep dive into the 2018 Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits Survey, which you can read online for free. The survey provides valuable national benchmarking for employer-sponsored health coverage in 2018. If you’d rather not to wade through the entire report, please enjoy my highlights on prescription coverage below. I summarize employers’ 2018 pharmacy benefits by examining (1) cost sharing tier structures, (2) prevalence of copayment vs. coinsurance, and (3) average copayments and coinsurance rates, by formulary tier. I breakdown the 2018 results for plans with and without high deductibles. For 2018, employers continue to increase … Continue reading Employer Pharmacy Benefits in 2018: More Tiers, Greater Coinsurance, and Lots of High-Deductible Plans

Drug Channels News Roundup, October 2018: Amgen, Walgreens, Rite Aid’s PBM, Drug Price Ads, and Buy-and-Bill Murray

Boo! Time for my Halloween bag of Drug Channels news stories. This issue’s tricks and treats: Shocking! The gross-to-net bubble for Amgen’s PCSK9 product magically vanishes—and my $0.02 appears Creepy! Stefano Pessina of Walgreens Boots Alliance shares startling thoughts about Amazon, ABC, and more Scary! Shareholders vote today on whether Rite Aid should amputate its PBM Spooky! The Wall Street Journal conjures up a frightfully funny editorial about the drug channel Plus, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services summons Buy-and-Bill Murray for its latest foray into Part B reform. P.S. Join the zombie horde who shamble after me at … Continue reading Drug Channels News Roundup, October 2018: Amgen, Walgreens, Rite Aid’s PBM, Drug Price Ads, and Buy-and-Bill Murray

PBM Pricing Overhaul: Express Scripts Prepares for a World Without Rebates—But Employers May Not Change

This week, Express Scripts announced an innovative pharmacy benefit contracting model for members of the National Drug Purchasing Coalition (NDPC), a group of 18 large employers. Click here to read the fully-titled press release. You should pay close attention to this b.i.g. news. It is structured so that Express Scripts will not profit from the flow of funds from a brand-name manufacturer to a plan sponsor. What’s more, the PBM’s compensation will be fully delinked from drug list prices. Instead, Express Scripts will earn only fixed management fees plus additional at-risk compensation tied to clinical outcomes. I spoke to Express … Continue reading PBM Pricing Overhaul: Express Scripts Prepares for a World Without Rebates—But Employers May Not Change

Battle Royale: CVS and Kroger Gain, Walgreens Slips in 2019 Part D Preferred Pharmacy Networks

In Humana Triggers a Pullback for Preferred Pharmacy Networks in 2019 Medicare Part D , I highlighted how preferred pharmacy networks will dominate next year’s Medicare Part D prescription drug plans (PDP). Today, I examine chain pharmacies’ participation in 24 major 2019 Part D preferred networks. Some highlights: CVS, for the second year, has strengthened its position as a preferred pharmacy in many 2019 networks. Walmart and Kroger have maintained the strong positions that they have established over the past few years. Walgreens, however, has slipped as the other chains grow. Poor ol’ Rite Aid will again be a preferred … Continue reading Battle Royale: CVS and Kroger Gain, Walgreens Slips in 2019 Part D Preferred Pharmacy Networks

EXCLUSIVE: Humana Triggers a Small Pullback for Preferred Pharmacy Networks in 2019 Medicare Part D (Plus: Top Sponsors and CVS Health’s POS Plan)

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has recently released the initial raw data on the 2019 Medicare Part D plans. Our exclusive analysis of these data reveals that preferred cost sharing pharmacy networks will be slightly less popular next year. For 2019, 92% of Medicare Part D regional prescription drug plans (PDP) will have a preferred network. This figure compares with 99% of plans in 2018. The decline will occur primarily because two Humana plans will switch from preferred to open networks for 2019. Below, I provide historical context on preferred networks’ growth and then discuss the top … Continue reading EXCLUSIVE: Humana Triggers a Small Pullback for Preferred Pharmacy Networks in 2019 Medicare Part D (Plus: Top Sponsors and CVS Health’s POS Plan)

Does Rite Aid Have the Grit to Succeed With Its EnvisionRx PBM Business?

Let’s check in with poor ol’ Rite Aid, the little drugstore that couldn’t. Over the past year and half, Rite Aid has sold off 2,000 stores to Walgreens Boots Alliance, scuttled a proposed merger with Albertsons, and watched its stock price drop from nearly $9 to about $1. Yikes. Rite Aid’s EnvisionRx business, which includes two small PBMs and some related pharmacy services businesses, still has some value. But as you will see below, there appear to be few synergies between Rite Aid’s pharmacy business and the Envision PBMs. Investors are grumbling that Rite Aid should sell EnvisionRx before things … Continue reading Does Rite Aid Have the Grit to Succeed With Its EnvisionRx PBM Business?

The Cigna-Express Scripts Deal’s Intriguing Connections With—And Implications For—AmerisourceBergen and Walgreens

Almost there! Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division closed its investigation of Cigna’s proposed acquisition of Express Scripts. Click here to read the DOJ’s closing statement. As with everything in the U.S. drug channel, there’s more to this transaction than meets the eye. Below, I explain how the transaction will benefit AmerisourceBergen (ABC), which supplies the mail and specialty pharmacies of Express Scripts. But as you’ll see, Express Scripts has been relying less on ABC as a source of supply for its mail and specialty pharmacies. Meanwhile, the new organization transaction will have few degrees of … Continue reading The Cigna-Express Scripts Deal’s Intriguing Connections With—And Implications For—AmerisourceBergen and Walgreens

Copay Accumulator Update: Widespread Adoption As Manufacturers and Maximizers Limit Patient Impact

In January, I alerted you to an important new benefit design trend in Copay Accumulators: Costly Consequences of a New Cost-Shifting Pharmacy Benefit. It is by far the most widely read article ever published on Drug Channels. New data from Zitter Health insights (ZHI) suggest that these programs are widely used. Nearly one-third of commercially-insured lives are enrolled in plans that have implemented copay accumulator adjustment or closely-related copay maximizers. (We explain the benefit design math behind maximizers below.) ZHI also found that a surprising number of plans are already set up to use these programs, but have not done so … Continue reading Copay Accumulator Update: Widespread Adoption As Manufacturers and Maximizers Limit Patient Impact

The State of Specialty Pharmacy 2018: Reflections from #Asembia18 (rerun)

This week, I’m rerunning some popular posts before the Labor Day weekend. Click here to see the original post and comments from May 2018. Last week, Paula and I had the pleasure of attending Asembia’s 2018 Specialty Pharmacy Summit. The Specialty Pharmacy Summit remains the most important forum in the specialty marketplace. This year, a record 6,500 people learned, networked, and connected in Las Vegas. It was another year of record attendance. (Here’s the official press release.) Drug Channels again salutes Larry and Robert Irene for sustaining and growing an annual event that unites the entire industry. Today marks the … Continue reading The State of Specialty Pharmacy 2018: Reflections from #Asembia18 (rerun)