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)

Who Best Managed the Drug Spending Slowdown in 2017: CVS Health, Express Scripts, MedImpact, or Prime Therapeutics? (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. It’s time for Drug Channels’ annual analysis of drug spending. For 2017, we again turn to the annual trend reports from four large pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs)—CVS Health, Express Scripts, MedImpact, and Prime Therapeutics. (See their report links below.) Below, I compare who’s better and who’s best among the PBMs and share additional observations about the 2017 trends. We offer four key conclusions: Drug spending grew by only 1.5% in 2017, continuing a multiyear decline in … Continue reading Who Best Managed the Drug Spending Slowdown in 2017: CVS Health, Express Scripts, MedImpact, or Prime Therapeutics? (rerun)

Profits in the 2018 Fortune 500: Manufacturers vs. Wholesalers, PBMs, and Pharmacies (rerun)

This week, I’m rerunning some popular posts before the Labor Day weekend. Click here to see the original post and comments from June 2018. Time for my annual review of the Fortune 500 list. Every year, this is one of my most popular posts, because it helps us follow the dollar and understand how drug channel intermediaries make money. Our analysis also provides crucial background for understanding the Trump administration’s drug pricing blueprint. Fortune’s 2018 list contains the same seven drug channel companies that the 2017 list did: AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, CVS Health, Express Scripts, McKesson, Rite Aid, and Walgreens … Continue reading Profits in the 2018 Fortune 500: Manufacturers vs. Wholesalers, PBMs, and Pharmacies (rerun)

Drug Channels News Roundup, August 2018: PBM Spread Profits, Part D Rebates, 340B Questions, Amazon and Dentists, and PBS on PBMs

We’re wrapping up one of newsiest summers in recent memory. As you send the kids back to school, savor this curated collection of curiosities, combed from the now-empty Drug Channels beach: In this issue: An Ohio audit provides unprecedented data about pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) profits New revelations about rebates in Medicare Part D. (Bonus: AHIP discovers that rebates actually exist!) Congress has tough questions for 340B contract pharmacies How Amazon Business is drilling into the dental supplies market Plus, an unexpectedly straightforward PBM news story that is clear enough to watch with your kids. P.S. Join the more than … Continue reading Drug Channels News Roundup, August 2018: PBM Spread Profits, Part D Rebates, 340B Questions, Amazon and Dentists, and PBS on PBMs

2019 Express Scripts Formulary Exclusions: Hepatitis C Changes Show Why the Drug Channel Must Change, Too

Last week, Express Scripts released the 2019 updates to its formulary exclusion lists. They are available below for your downloading pleasure. Unfortunately, CVS Health won’t release its list until October. For 2019, Express Scripts was more aggressive than ever, expanding its list to more than 240 excluded products. For the first time, it excluded products in two specialty categories: HIV antiretrovirals and Factor VIII recombinant products. It also added a new exclusion in multiple sclerosis. Oddly, Express Scripts has made a patient unfriendly change to the hepatitis C category. It has excluded AbbVie’s Mavyret, the market share leader with a … Continue reading 2019 Express Scripts Formulary Exclusions: Hepatitis C Changes Show Why the Drug Channel Must Change, Too

New Disclosures Show CVS and Express Scripts Can Survive in a World Without Rebates. Are Plan Sponsors Now the Real Barrier to Disruption?

Last week, the two largest pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs)—CVS Health and Express Scripts—both stated that rebates now account for a small part of their profits. The companies therefore strongly implied that they could survive in a world in which PBMs did not participate in the flow of funds from a brand-name manufacturer to a plan sponsor. Below, I unpack the new disclosures, which move us materially closer to a new model. Hmm. The two biggest PBMs and at least one major manufacturer (Pfizer) have now implied a willingness to change. So what’s to stop massive drug channel disruption? CVS Health … Continue reading New Disclosures Show CVS and Express Scripts Can Survive in a World Without Rebates. Are Plan Sponsors Now the Real Barrier to Disruption?

A System Without Rebates: The Drug Channels Negotiated Discounts Model

Are you ready for a world without rebates? In June, Alex Azar, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), summarized his long-range vision for a new drug channel system: “[W]e may need to move toward a system without rebates, where PBMs and drug companies just negotiate fixed-price contracts. Such a system’s incentives, detached from artificial list prices, would likely serve patients far better.” (emphasis added) No one has yet explained what a system without rebates would look like. To facilitate the discussion, I have sketched out a possible new drug channel system that would: Respond to the … Continue reading A System Without Rebates: The Drug Channels Negotiated Discounts Model

Specialty Pharmacies and PBMs Penetrate the 340B Program—And How Manufacturers Should Respond

In two recent Drug Channels articles, I have documented the phenomenal growth in pharmacies participating in the 340B Drug Pricing Program and the superior profits that pharmacies earn from the program. Today, I turn to the less well-known role of specialty pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers, which are now significant participants as 340B contract pharmacies. Below, we present our first exclusive analysis of how independent and PBM-owned specialty pharmacies have deepened their relationships with hospitals and other 340B covered entities. We estimate that nearly 10% of all specialty prescriptions are dispensed by 340B contract pharmacies, which makes this channel one … Continue reading Specialty Pharmacies and PBMs Penetrate the 340B Program—And How Manufacturers Should Respond

Amazon Buys PillPack: Six Pharmacy and Drug Channel Implications

It’s official! After more than a year of speculation and rumors, Amazon has entered the pharmacy business with its acquisition of PillPack, a small mail pharmacy. Consider this move to be the end of the beginning for the pharmacy industry’s evolution. The stock prices of pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) predictably plunged yesterday as everyone freaked out. CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Rite Aid collectively lost more than $11 billion in stock market value. Below, I offer my initial observations on the transaction and its impact. But let’s all keep some perspective here. This is a small first … Continue reading Amazon Buys PillPack: Six Pharmacy and Drug Channel Implications