Thursday, March 21, 2019

A Lack of Competition Leads to Brand Drug Price Increases

Image result for brand drug price increase 2018Inmaculada Hernandez, PhD, assistant professor at the Pitt School of Pharmacy, and colleagues, studied pricing data from the First Databank, along with pharmacy claims from the UPMC Health Plan. Some 19,000 new and existing oral and injectable drugs used in the outpatient setting between 2008 and 2016 underwent analysis. The group aimed to quantify which therapies were the most significant contributors to changes in cost.

“One of the important reasons we conducted this study is to increase transparency in the drug pricing process,” Hernandez said in an interview with Healio Rheumatology. “The prices of new drugs make headlines, but when you look at all of the drugs available on the market, and where the health care dollars are going, it is not just the entry of these new products that is causing the overall increases.”

In their study, Hernandez and colleagues presented results in a number of ways, including a breakdown of brand name and generic drugs. For brand name drugs, the group reported a 9.2% increase for oral drugs and a 15% increase in injectables; the researchers reported that existing drugs largely drove this increase. For generics, oral drug costs increased by 4.4%, while injectable drug costs rose 7.3%. New drug entry drove these increases, according to the findings.

[Read More]

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 260)

This document is updated weekly, but why is it important? Healthcare marketers are aggressively pursuing new revenue streams to augment lower reimbursements provided under PPACA. Prescription drugs, particularly specialty, are key drivers in the growth strategies of PBMs, TPAs, and MCOs pursuant to health care reform.

The costs shared here are what the pharmacy actually pays; not AWP, MAC or WAC. The bottom line; payers must have access to actual acquisition costs or AAC. Apply this knowledge to hold PBMs accountable and lower plan expenditures for stakeholders.



How to Determine if Your Company [or Client] is Overpaying

Step #1:  Obtain a price list for generic prescription drugs from your broker, TPA, ASO or PBM every month.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Uncovering Hidden Specialty Drug Spend Outside of the Pharmacy Benefit

When reviewing overall drug trend, specialty drugs represent a small volume of prescription utilization although specialty drug spend represents a large share of drug costs.  As an example, when comparing branded specialty vs. branded non-specialty drugs, branded specialty accounted for only 3% of total prescriptions in comparison to 34% of the share of spending based on the November 2018 BlueCross BlueShield Prescription Drug Costs Trend Update Report.Therefore, the appropriate management of specialty drugs continues to be an area of focus for those involved in administering the pharmacy benefit.

Furthermore, payers should have oversight of both pharmacy and medical spend, particularly when managing specialty drugs.  A large portion of specialty drug spend occurs under the medical benefit.  According to a 2017 CVS Health  report, 45% of specialty spend occurs under the medical benefit with the remaining 55% under the pharmacy benefit:2

Moreover, there are many unique differences within each benefit. One notable difference is that medical claims are billed utilizing HCPS codes (commonly referred to as J-codes) vs. NDC codes for pharmacy claims.  J-codes present various challenges which include issues with certain drugs billed under a miscellaneous code if a specific code doesn’t exist, utilizing one j-code for several different drugs and inaccurate billing.  

Payers will need to analyze specialty drug data from the medical and pharmacy benefit.  In addition to the standard reporting available for drugs paid under the pharmacy benefit,  obtaining medical side specialty drug reporting is essential.  The 2018 PBMI Specialty Drug Trends Report stated that the majority (89%) of respondents reported that their PBM or other healthcare vendor tracks specialty and non-specialty drug spend separately for drugs covered under the pharmacy benefit. 

However, less than half (48%) reported that their PBM or healthcare vendor tracks specialty drug spend under the medical benefit……For the subset of respondents reporting that specialty spend under the medical benefit is tracked, the source of these reports is most often their health plan.”3

Key next steps towards appropriate management of specialty drugs would start with the understanding that a large portion of the spend exists under the medical benefit and then to obtain pharmacy reporting from the medical side in order to have a complete view of the total specialty drug spend under both benefits.




3)    Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute. 2018. Trends in Specialty Drug Benefits. Plano, TX: PBMI. Available from www.pbmi.com/specialtyreports.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Eli Lilly and Company to Offer Generic Insulin at 50% Off Brand Name Humalog

Humalog rapid-acting insulin my introduction into the pharmaceutical industry
First things first, get this product on your formulary yesterday! It shouldn't take six months for a P&T committee review. Now, the primary reason for this blog post.

My career in the pharmaceutical industry began in 2002 with Eli Lilly and Co. I started out as a sales representative in the diabetes care division before electronic prescribing. I don't know why I added the part about electronic prescribing other than to reflect back on how fast time flies. Not too many employees speak highly of a company once they leave. I do, however, of Eli Lilly and Co. every chance I get.

Before going any further, I need to preempt any attempts to downplay what I'm about to write. Much like Eminem when he battle raps, I know what my competition is going to say before they utter a single word.

Eli Lilly is a great pharmaceutical company who puts patients first. I know, I know...it is a public drugmaker, with shareholders, and generates gargantuan margins from its product portfolio. Hear me out.

1) Back then, in 2002, and still today the sales culture was about putting the patient first always. Of course, the company has to keep shareholders happy but it didn't do it at the expense of patients. I truly believe this and have more street smarts than most so no I'm not drinking the Kool-aid.

2) In a team meeting, my manager called me into a private room during a break. He handed me a folder and inside was a letter explaining my salary was going from $65,000/yr to $85,000/yr. I got light-headed and nearly passed out. It wasn't so much about the money instead it was the recognition I appreciated most of all. There are two things of note. First, I had not asked for a raise. Second, I was less than one year into my tenure with Eli Lilly still they cut the check!

3) Less than a year later, I was promoted way ahead of schedule. I'm talking six or seven years ahead of schedule. They recognized my results and rewarded me for them. No red tape, business case, or performance review just you deserve it so here you go.

I write all of this to say I'm not surprised Eli Lilly and Co. announced plans on Monday to sell a half-price version of its popular insulin injection Humalog. True, it is fending off criticism about rising drug prices, especially insulin, yet like my pay raise it didn't have to do this.

[Read More]

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

"Don't Miss" Webinar: How to Slash PBM Service Costs, up to 50%, Without Changing Vendors or Benefit Levels

How many businesses do you know want to cut their revenues in half? That's why traditional pharmacy benefit managers don't offer radical transparency and instead opt for hidden cash flow opportunities such as rebate masking. Want to learn more?

Here is what some participants have said about the webinar.

"Thank you Tyrone. Nice job, good information." David Stoots, AVP

"Thank you! Awesome presentation." Mallory Nelson, PharmD

"Thank you Tyrone for this informative meeting." David Wachtel, VP

"...Great presentation! I had our two partners on the presentation as well. Very informative." Nolan Waterfall, Agent/Benefits Specialist

A snapshot of what you will learn during this 30 minute webinar:
  • Hidden cash flows in the PBM Industry such as formulary steering, rebate masking and differential pricing 
  • How to calculate cost of pharmacy benefit manager services or CPBMS
  • Specialty pharmacy cost-containment strategies
  • The financial impact of actual acquisition cost (AAC) vs. maximum allowable cost (MAC)
  • Why mail-order and preferred pharmacy networks may not be the great deal you were sold

Sincerely,
TransparentRx
Tyrone D. Squires, MBA  
3960 Howard Hughes Pkwy., Suite 500  
Las Vegas, NV 89169  
866-499-1940 Ext. 201


P.S.  Yes, it's recorded. I know you're busy ... so register now and we'll send you the link to the session recording as soon as it's ready.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 260)

This document is updated weekly, but why is it important? Healthcare marketers are aggressively pursuing new revenue streams to augment lower reimbursements provided under PPACA. Prescription drugs, particularly specialty, are key drivers in the growth strategies of PBMs, TPAs, and MCOs pursuant to health care reform.

The costs shared here are what the pharmacy actually pays; not AWP, MAC or WAC. The bottom line; payers must have access to actual acquisition costs or AAC. Apply this knowledge to hold PBMs accountable and lower plan expenditures for stakeholders.

How to Determine if Your Company [or Client] is Overpaying

Step #1:  Obtain a price list for generic prescription drugs from your broker, TPA, ASO or PBM every month.

Monday, February 25, 2019

How to Save $1.6 Million Bucks: 5 Tips for Cutting Specialty Pharmacy Costs

The trend for specialty drug costs is 14% increase every year to 2025. Worse yet, there is a good chance plan sponsors are significantly overpaying for specialty medications. Don't fret, there is good news. You have an opportunity to bend the specialty pharmacy cost trend. Consider this recent case study:

Reviewing a high-cost case, one of TransparentRx's Certified Pharmacy Benefits Specialist and clinical pharmacist identified an unusually high payment for a specialty pharmacy drug. The CPBS notified the client and consulted on appropriate pricing. It was discovered that although the client had performed a medical necessity review, the cost of the drug was not reviewed because an existing discount was already in place. We were able to negotiate with the provider and win both retrospective and future pricing at the CPBS’s suggested cost. Total Annual Savings: $1,623,427.

It is true this is an extreme example yet at the same time it is certainly not unique. The following tips can help brokers, plan administrators and case managers identify and fix overpayments for specialty pharmaceuticals:

Take a proactive approach to prior authorizations.

I've been fortunate enough to be a "fly on the wall" listening to the leadership teams of several national specialty pharmacies. And while they preach case management and patient care as the priority if you listen carefully what they really want first and foremost is volume or more prescriptions. I am asking self-funded employers a simple yet very important question. Does it make sense to have the same entity manage and approve specialty Rx claims when that entity stands to benefit when these claims are approved?

If 90% or more of PAs are getting approved you might be a victim of rubber-stamping which leads to what? You guessed it - higher costs. Just because you have a PA or step therapy program doesn't mean it is efficient. Consider carving out the prior authorization process or at a minimum taking a more hands on approach.

Crosswalk “J” Codes to National Drug Codes (NDCs) to identify specialty pharmacy drugs.

J codes are Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) Level II and mainly used in infusions, injections, and supply codes. J codes apply to drugs that are administered other than orally, typically indicating injection or intravenous delivery. An NDC is a unique 10-digit, three-segment number that serves as a universal product identifier for human drugs in the U.S. The code is present on all nonprescription (OTC) and prescription medication packages and inserts.

If a medication is paid for under the medical benefit, the claims use J codes — they are part of the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) — and J codes are blunt instruments compared with NDC codes. There’s often a lag in assigning J codes, so new drugs may share an “unlisted” designation for months. Brand and generic drugs share a J code, and package size is not included. If you need to track medication use and cost, J code data will give you a fuzzy picture; the NDC codes, a high-resolution one.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 259)

This document is updated weekly, but why is it important? Healthcare marketers are aggressively pursuing new revenue streams to augment lower reimbursements provided under PPACA. Prescription drugs, particularly specialty, are key drivers in the growth strategies of PBMs, TPAs, and MCOs pursuant to health care reform.

The costs shared here are what the pharmacy actually pays; not AWP, MAC or WAC. The bottom line; payers must have access to actual acquisition costs or AAC. Apply this knowledge to hold PBMs accountable and lower plan expenditures for stakeholders.



How to Determine if Your Company [or Client] is Overpaying

Step #1:  Obtain a price list for generic prescription drugs from your broker, TPA, ASO or PBM every month.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

How Self-Funded Employers Leave Employees Holding the Bag: The Copay Clawback Phenomenon:

The retail cost of Sprintec is $10.04 but OptumRx required the pharmacy to collect $50 from the patient. OptumRx contributed nothing for the drug but collected the additional $38.35 clawback from the pharmacy, almost four times the retail cost of Sprintec. An unnamed pharmacist provided the claim information

Watch this short video for a demonstration on how clawbacks work.




This billing practice is known as a “clawback” and you may have no idea it’s happening because pharmacists aren't yet allowed in many states to tell you under a gag order in place that restricts pharmacists from telling patients they are being overcharged. These clawback monies are a contributing factor to significant overpayment for pharmacy benefits management services.

Clawback revenue also plays a big role in the unchecked service fees to non-fiduciary PBMs who rely on them to cover overhead. For self-insured employers, it’s all about the contract so if you enter into an agreement with a PBM that does not drive radical transparency you leave employees holding the bag.

[Download the Full White Paper]

Friday, February 15, 2019

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 258)

This document is updated weekly, but why is it important? Healthcare marketers are aggressively pursuing new revenue streams to augment lower reimbursements provided under PPACA. Prescription drugs, particularly specialty, are key drivers in the growth strategies of PBMs, TPAs, and MCOs pursuant to health care reform.

The costs shared here are what the pharmacy actually pays; not AWP, MAC or WAC. The bottom line; payers must have access to actual acquisition costs or AAC. Apply this knowledge to hold PBMs accountable and lower plan expenditures for stakeholders.



How to Determine if Your Company [or Client] is Overpaying

Step #1:  Obtain a price list for generic prescription drugs from your broker, TPA, ASO or PBM every month.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Closer Look into the Popular Pricing Benchmark: Average Wholesale Price (AWP)



Average Wholesale Price (AWP) is a list price that is used as a basis for reimbursement to pharmacies for drug ingredient cost.  AWP as a drug pricing benchmark has come under scrutiny as it doesn’t reflect what is actually paid for drugs and is often referred to as a “sticker price.”1  Wolters Kluwer Clinical Drug Information (WKCDI) publishes AWP prices via its Medi-Span® Price Rx® drug pricing tool and makes the following assessment2:

“Despite its name or possible use as an index, the AWP published by WKCDI is not an “average” of actual wholesale prices. It is not derived from, does not reflect, and should not be assumed to represent, either (i) the actual prices paid for drug products in transactions between wholesalers (meant to include any party that buys drug products directly from a manufacturer) and their customers, or (ii) any discounts, rebates or other price reductions that wholesalers may offer to their customers in connection with those transactions. In fact, a wholesaler or other direct purchaser from a pharmaceutical manufacturer may agree to sell its drug product to one or more of its customers at a price that is on its face or effectively different than the AWP published by WKCDI. “

The 2018 PBMI Trends in Drug Benefit Design Report, based on a survey of drug benefit leaders responsible for managing the prescription drug benefit for their organization, provided the Average AWP discount based on dispensing channel (e.g. Retail 30, Retail 90, Mail Order and Specialty).  The survey results showed that for generic drugs average AWP discounts ranged from 56% 
at retail 30 to 63% for mail order. Discounts on brand-name drugs were much lower with averages between 19% and 25% depending on channel.” 3

This data provides valuable insight into recent trends in AWP discount averages and ranges amongst stakeholders across the industry.  Although AWP isn’t the only pricing benchmark available, it is currently the most widely utilized for price discounts for brand drugs and generic drugs until generics are eligible for MAC pricing.  

A Chart of Common Drug Pricing Terms4

Click to Enlarge

1.AMCP Guide to Pharmaceutical Payment Methods, 2009 Update (Version 2.0). (2009). Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy,15(6 Supp A), 1-62. doi:10.18553/jmcp.2009.15.s6-a.1


3.  PBMI 2018 Trends in Drug Benefit Design Report

4. https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/paying-for-prescribed-drugs-in-medicaid-current-policy-and-upcoming-changes/