Thursday, April 2, 2020

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost vs. AWP for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 307)

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, March 31, 2020

Tuesday Tip of the Week: Avoid "Bargain Basement" PBM Administration fees

Interest in spreads was heightened in June 2019 with a story in USA Todays' network and allegations by Ohio Department of Medicaid, in part, over the spread taken by two well-known PBMs. Although these cash flows can accrue to some PBMs, there are others that do business on a full-disclosure arrangement with the plan sponsor.

These full-disclosure models avoid the “bargain basement” administration fees of 10 cents to 50 cents per claim, for example, that give non-fiduciary PBMs the green light to generate cash flows that are not readily apparent to the sponsor. Some of these PBMs are so brazen (or plan sponsors indifferent) that they are even offering $0 dispensing fees. The plan sponsor should be prepared for a greater upfront PBM administration fee, north of $4 per claim, in exchange for total disclosure of cash flows.


How much money is your PBM making? Click to Learn More.

The full-disclosure model PBM may not actively promote a specialty pharmacy or mail-order facility, because with no manipulation of AWP and a fair MAC for both the pharmacist and sponsor, the PBM has no economic advantage. The perception of many plan sponsors is that “AWP minus discount” and a “minimum rebate guarantee option” are the two key components in evaluating the PBM proposal.

From my experience, the plan sponsor should take the time to investigate the cash flows to the PBM. It is a variable rarely considered in the evaluation of PBM proposals yet has a profound impact on net costs. The time invested in PBM selection can return significant cost savings on future pharmacy benefit costs.

Given the competition in the PBM industry and the potential for undisclosed cash flows, I believe that plan sponsors can use the information in this week's tip to their advantage in selecting and monitoring their PBM's performance. 

Monday, March 30, 2020

PBM Evaluation Process: Is Yours Up to Par?

Figure 1
For many health benefit plan sponsors and their advisors, the evaluation process used to compare pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) keeps drug costs higher than they should be by measuring their value with metrics that reward rebates rather than net costs.

For example (see Figure 1), a patient with nephrotic syndrome is part of a real-world, self-funded drug plan that switched from PBM 1 to PBM 2. If presented with this scenario during an RFP analysis, is your evaluation process set up to value the larger rebate associated with Acthar, or the overall lower costs associated with Rituxan?

Tyrone's Commentary:

When monitoring PBM performance after during the contract term, go beyond standard reports. These reports don’t usually uncover problem areas that if resolved cuts the PBM's service fee but saves you [plan sponsor] money. How do you go beyond standard reports you might ask? For starters, download a copy of my 18 pt. PBM Performance Evaluation Questionnaire. Work with the PBM account manager on a corrective action plan when problems are uncovered. Some problems might include:

1. MAC list performance
2. Performance guarantee true ups
3. PA and ST rubber-stamping
4. Poor product mix
5. Improper utilization

An RFP process that “spreadsheets” acquisition discounts, rebates per prescription, and administration costs typically lacks the information that plan sponsors need to recommend the option with the lowest overall costs and doesn’t account for utilization management or improved clinical outcomes.

Continue Reading >>

Friday, March 27, 2020

Gross-to-Net Bubble: Brand Drug List Prices Increase 159% and Net Prices 60% from 2007 to 2018

Facing Criticism, Drug Makers Keep Lid On Price Increases - WSJA paper by Hernandez et al. (2020) in JAMA examines trends in branded drug prices using data from SSR Health between 2007 and 2018. The authors find the following:

From 2007 to 2018:
  • List prices increased by 159% (95% CI, 137%-181%), or 9.1% per year
  • Net prices increased by 60% (95% CI, 36%-84%), or 4.5% per year
  • Between 2015 and 2018 with stable net prices, discounts increased from 40% to 76% in Medicaid and from 23% to 51% for other payers. 
  • Between 2015 and 2018 increases in discounts offset 62% of list price increases.

In short, the headline number for some is ‘drug prices increased by nearly 10% per year.’ However, the real story is that because rebates have been increasing by so much, branded drug net prices have only risen by 4.5% per year. The latter figure is above inflation, but not unreasonable. Further, this change in branded drug prices does not take into account the decreasing cost of drugs after they go generic.

Download JAMA Paper >>

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 306)

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, March 24, 2020

Tuesday Tip of the Week: Maximize DUM Programs to Manage Costs of Specialty Pharmaceuticals

In 2020, spend will nearly double and specialty will represent half of all drug spend. The market estimated to grow from $336 billion in 2018 to a predicted $475 billion to $505 billion by 2023 across developed markets.

As the fastest growing, most expensive segment of pharmacy spend, specialty drug trend is driven by the number of units, or utilization, and the cost per unit. Both utilization and prices are increasing in specialty.

One strategy for mitigating and managing costs with specialty pharmaceuticals is drug utilization management or DUM. Drug utilization management programs can be broken down into several key categories:
  • Prior Authorization (PA), which requires select prescriptions meet defined criteria before they are covered by the plan. The clinical assessment may include a diagnosis/age review, safety review, lab data validation, and pharmacogenomic protocols. Prescriptions are flagged at point-of-sale and prescribers are required to confirm that the use of an affected drug is medically necessary.
  • Step edits, which promote safety and cost savings by encouraging patients to try a first-line agent, before coverage is provided for a second-line, more costly drug. This could include a non-specialty to specialty step edit in which the patient needs to try and fail with an appropriate non-specialty drug before accessing a specialty medication. 
  • Specialty generic step edits, which require the trial and failure of a lower-cost specialty drug option(s) before accessing the brand drug.
  • DURs or drug utilization reviews from the first day of drug launch. This will ensure safe, effective, and appropriate drug utilization in accordance with FDA-labeling for all new-to-market specialty drugs. New drugs would reject for PA upon launch and be reviewed in accordance with FDA-labeling, bridging the gap until drug-specific criteria are available.
  • Quantity management or short fill programs are aimed at reducing waste and apply to a defined list of specialty medications with a high prevalence of adverse events (AEs) and potentially poor tolerability, which can lead to high discontinuation rates at the initiation of therapy. The goal of the short fill program is to minimize medication waste, while managing patient adherence and AE management, thereby potentially improving care and providing savings for patients and payers. 
Drug utilization management is not created equally between pharmacy benefit managers. A PA program, for example, at one PBM often performs differently at another. Here are a few questions to consider:

1) Are your PAs properly enforced?
2) Are your current PAs effective?
3) Do you receive proper reporting on PA approvals and denials?
4) How often do you require PAs?

Once the prescription has been written, many specialty pharmacies primary objective is to get the product out the door. In other words, PAs often become a check-the-box exercise don't allow that to happen in your plan.

Friday, March 20, 2020

American Pharmacist Association (APhA) Issues Prescription Drug Supply Guidance for Patients and Caregivers

Image result for medication supply
Click to Learn More
As part of its ongoing efforts to help patients and pharmacists cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, APhA has released guidance for patients and caregivers on how to ensure adequate supplies of medication if they become unable to get to the pharmacy.

The guidance recommends that:
  • Patients and caregivers talk to their pharmacist about medication supply concerns. Hoarding or stockpiling, APhA warns, is not necessary and could lead to drug shortages.
  • Patients and caregivers contact their health insurance plan, associated pharmacy benefit manager, or both to determine if benefits include early refills—normally the patient or pharmacy would contact the prescriber when refills are needed—or supply limits.
  • Patients and caregivers inquire about delivery options if picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy becomes prohibitive. Delivery options could include designating another person to pick up the prescription, getting home delivery, or receiving prescriptions by mail.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 305)

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, March 17, 2020

Tuesday Tip of the Week: Get Your Contract Definitions in Order

Non-fiduciary PBMs arbitrarily designate certain generic drugs as brand and non-specialty brand drugs as “specialty” medications. Subsequently, they jack up the price substantially and decree that these specialty drugs can be filled only at the parent-company pharmacy.

How can a PBM arbitrarily designate certain drugs as specialty medications you ask? The same way a non-fiduciary PBM might designate a generic drug as brand. It's all about the contract definitions. In every scenario where a plan sponsor has shared their success with reducing pharmacy costs, they've mentioned the contract. The mention is usually very subtle unless of course you have a trained-eye then it sticks out like a sore thumb. Remove opaque definitions from your PBM contract.

Included above is a transparent definition of 'Specialty Drug' and one we use in our Certified Pharmacy Benefits Specialist curriculum.

Continue Reading >>

Monday, March 16, 2020

Non-Fiduciary PBMs Arbitrarily Designate Certain Drugs as “Specialty” Medications

Ohio has been working to rein in abusive practices by PBMs since mid-2018, after reporting by The Dispatch revealed that CVS Caremark and Optum Rx, two of the PBMs serving Ohio Medicaid, netted $224 million in a 12-month period by charging Medicaid one price for drugs and reimbursing pharmacies with amounts generally far lower.

Then-Gov. John Kasich’s administration responded by ordering greater transparency in the next round of contracts between PBMs and the managed-care companies handling Medicaid. And the General Assembly eventually barred “spread pricing,” requiring PBMs instead to be paid only a set fee per prescription filled.

But that didn’t end the flow of excess profits to PBMs, either. They still had wide latitude to set the terms of prescription coverage, and because most have parent companies that also own pharmacy chains, a new gambit emerged: arbitrarily designate certain drugs as “specialty” medications, jack up the price substantially and decree that they can be filled only at the parent-company pharmacy.

Tyrone's Commentary:

Click to Enlarge
How can a PBM arbitrarily designate certain drugs as specialty medications you ask? The same way a non-fiduciary PBM might designate a generic drug as brand. It's all about the contract definitions. In every scenario where a plan sponsor has shared their success with reducing pharmacy costs, they've mentioned the contract. The mention is usually very subtle unless of course you have a trained-eye then it sticks out like a sore thumb. Leave opaque definitions in your contract and you are bound to get screwed. I've supplied here a  transparent definition of 'Specialty Drug' and one we use in our Certified Pharmacy Benefits Specialist curriculum.

Continue Reading >>

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 304)

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 9, 2020

Large Employer Groups Push Back on Non-Fiduciary PBMs and Win Big!

“We’re looking at PBM contracting differently than we have in the past because I don’t want to control just what we spend on drugs. I’m trying to control my overall health care spending,” says Erik A. Sossa, PepsiCo’s vice president of global benefits and wellness.

Pepsi is one of the eight companies in the contract. Others include Chevron, ExxonMobil, Sodexo, Solvay USA, and Yum! Brands. The remaining two have declined to be publicly identified, says Sossa.

CLICK TO LEARN MORE
“To change the nature of how we contracted with PBMs, we needed to take rebates off the table,” Sossa explains. “Instead, we negotiated with Express Scripts from the acquisition cost, net of rebates and net of the average wholesale price.” In other words, the contract is built around Express Scripts’ actual cost of medications. “We pay what Express Scripts pays for drugs,” he says. “That’s the starting point that we haven’t seen in other contracts with PBMs—at least not yet.”

The employers and Express Scripts also agreed to the clinical and financial guarantees. “Rather than chasing rebates or price, we wanted to change the motivation and the nature of the partnership with our PBM,” says Sossa.

Tyrone's Commentary:

Given the projected growth of both traditional and specialty pharmacy costs, employers must be better educated when working directly with its PBM. The companies referenced in this article understand transparency is key to lower drug prices. Accounting for the PBMs take home is paramount to achieving any reasonable level of transparency. Do you understand this or are you still putting the most emphasis on AWP discount and rebate guarantees? Ongoing education in the PBM space improves appropriate use of prescription drugs and eliminates wasteful spending. Employers, large and small, should strive for a relationship that provides the best outcomes and lowest net cost - that starts with education.

In negotiating financial performance guarantees based on per-member-per-month spending levels, the employers agreed to a two-sided risk contract with Express Scripts. If costs are lower than an agreed-upon amount based on what the employers spent on pharmacy benefits in 2018, then the employers pay Express Scripts a bonus. If costs are above the baseline, the employers pay less.

When negotiating the contract terms, Express Scripts worked out the details with each of the eight companies separately, says Snezana Mahon, the PBM’s vice president of clinical programs. “We agreed on the risk parameters client by client, and the outcomes we agreed to achieve are based on the specific needs of each client’s population, meaning we are customizing this program to the plan.”

Continue Reading >>

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Don't Miss Webinar: How to Slash PBM Service Fees, up to 50%, Without Reducing Benefits or Shifting Costs to Employees

How many businesses do you know will voluntarily cut their revenues in half? This is the reason non-fiduciary pharmacy benefit managers are reluctant to offer radical transparency. Instead, they opt for hidden cash flow opportunities to foster growth. 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 streams in the PBM Industry
  • How to calculate the EACD or earnings after cash disbursements
  • Basic to intermediate level PBM terminologies
  • Pros and cons of PBM price benchmarks
  • Cost-containment strategies to implement today

Sincerely,
TransparentRx
Tyrone D. Squires, MBA  
10845 Griffith Peak Drive, Suite 200  
Las Vegas, NV 89135  
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.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Patient Assistance Programs: A Shield from High Cost or Trampoline for Abuse?

Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) operated by pharmaceutical manufacturers, nonprofit organizations, and government entities are designed to relieve financial pressures by helping those in need obtain their medications. Currently, there are over 350 programs and companies covering more than 4000 drugs.
Figure 1.

Patient assistance generally comes in 2 forms:
  1. Copayment assistance: These programs help reduce the patient’s OOP responsibility, including coinsurance and deductible support, depending on treatment setting.
  2. Replacement drugs: The hospital pharmacy provides the prescription medication to the patient for free, and the drug manufacturer replaces the product back to the provider at no cost.
One of the challenges in securing PAP aid is proactively monitoring changes in patient eligibility and documentation requirements. Most PAPs require an application, yet no 2 programs are the same, and the amount of information required varies.

Tyrone's Commentary:

Two examples of caution when it comes to PAPs. First, some programs provide assistance for the purchase of high-cost drugs that have no generic equivalents or close therapeutic substitutes. In such cases, assistance programs can expand access to therapies that represent the standard of care but can also promote use among patients who do not place a high value on the health benefits associated with these therapies.

Patient-assistance programs may lead to higher drug prices as a result of the interplay between patient demand and prices. Economic theory predicts that if patient demand becomes less sensitive to prices, manufacturers of on-patent drugs will respond by setting higher prices. Despite these two downsides PAPs have more pros than cons.

Some programs require detailed medical and financial information (see figure 1), and others ask for very little. In addition, although all require a physician’s signature, some programs require the doctor to complete a portion of the form, and others only need a signed prescription.

Continue Reading>>

Friday, February 28, 2020

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 303)

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.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The ROI on Pharmacy Benefit Management Services; New Study from PCMA

I've long held the belief that the PBM business model is good for self-funded employers when they [employers] are put first. Even when a non-fiduciary PBM places you second, behind profits and dividends, a sophisticated plan sponsor still realizes a significant ROI. It is the unsophisticated plan sponsor who pays for bloated payrolls and other wasteful spending. 

Things start to get murky when plan sponsors or their stakeholders are unsophisticated in the PBM space and make selection decisions on anything other than transparency first! Transparency (defining it, interpreting it and ultimately winning it) is by far the #1 factor in determing what you pay PBM services. Transparency is also more difficult to see, without a trained-eye, than buyers think. Most plan sponsors don't know what they don't know. 

The PBM business is so complicated such that being part of a steering committee, every two to three years for 20 years, will only teach you the basics. PBM education is vital insofar as turning the tables on PBMs. Watch the brief video from Kaiser Health below.



Some of the primary supporters of PCMA have themselves self-admitted to not being responsible for containing their clients' pharmacy cost. What's the problem? It is the primary job of a PBM to contain our clients' cost. 

A radically transparent PBM makes money just one way - the administrative fee. When the administrative fee is artificially low (less than $4 per claim) forget it no way your PBM is transparent. In some form, it is generating huge overpayments or mark ups via hidden cash flow.

The findings in the new study are eye-opening. But, read on with a critical eye. 

Major Findings:
  • Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) help reduce prescription drug costs for 266 million Americans.
  • PBMs save payers and patients 40-50% on their annual drug and related medical costs compared to what they would have spent without PBMs.
  • PBMs save payers and patients an average of $962 per person per year.
  • For every $1 spent on their services, PBMs reduce costs by $10.
  • PBMs account for just 6% of the net cost of a prescription, while manufacturers account for 65%.
  • Over the next 10 years, PBMs will help prevent 1 billion medication errors.
  • PBMs improve drug therapy and prescription adherence in diabetes patients, helping to prevent some 480,000 heart failures, 230,000 incidents of kidney disease, 180,000 strokes, and 8,000 amputations annually.
  • Through specialty pharmacy services, PBMs will help extend and improve the quality of life for patients with multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis by approximately 1 million Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) over 10 years.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Tip of the Week: For your next PBM request for proposal ditch email and paper

Self-funded employers now have the technology available to them to automate large portions of repetitive tasks, streamline operations, and supercharge their pharmacy benefit manager RFPs. Companies that fail to adapt to technology will find themselves losing out to PBMs and competitors who have successfully embraced digital transformation and implemented new solutions to their PBM selection process.

e-Procurement provides excellent leverage for businesses that want the most efficient PBM spend process. RFI, RFQ and RFP software can help self-funded employers and take things to the next level.

First, let’s define what RFI, RFQ and RFP mean:

  • RFI – Request for Information is created to retain information from a supplier or vendor with no commitment to engage in a project. Typically RFI include no information about the project and can be issued to suppliers using RFI software. 
  • RFQ – Request for Quote strictly relates to price. RFQs focus on providing a quote that has a specific validity period. RFQ is typically used when the main terms of a deal are focused on financial metrics. 
  • RFP – Request for Proposal is an in-depth list of specific goods and/or services to be rendered by the service provider. PBMs typically respond to RFPs with their least transparent offer to provide what is being asked of them.

Reduced Prices. When you implement eRFx software  into your company, you save money through digitizing your PBM procurement process by going paperless. Errors that occur when filling out or evaluating forms with a manual process are eliminated. This means you can avoid costly mistakes that need investigation, resolution and reworking to be fixed.

Faster Business Cycles. e-Procurement software which handles eRFx operations enable transactions to be completed faster than manual processes once allowed for. The software uses an automated process which increases the volume of transactions completed in near real-time. This enhanced efficiency can have a domino effect throughout your entire business and improve go-live timing, as other relevant departments no longer have to wait for manual data entry and manual approvals.

Skyrocket Productivity. To have a successful PBM procurement process, you need to be operating under maximum efficiency and productivity. eRFx software reduces the amount of time required to complete time-consuming business tasks like proposal evaluation and scoring. Through automating tasks that once were completed manually, you free your team members from performing low-value tasks such as data entry, emailing, and paper processing. Instead, team members can cast their efforts on high-quality functions that drive business like contract analysis and scoring.

Take Control of your Pharmacy Spend with e-Procurement Software

A robust PBM e-procurement system breeds transparency and control within your company. This also means you can share better information with relevant stakeholders. Dashboards enhance visibility which provides a full procurement cycle transparency that your competitors cannot offer to clients if they are failing to use e-procurement software.

<<Watch a DEMO>>

Monday, February 24, 2020

Value-Based Contracts Slowly Picking Up Steam

imageValue-based contracts (sometimes referred to as risk-sharing agreements or outcomes-based contracts) are a type of innovative payment model that brings together two key stakeholders—health care payers and biopharmaceutical manufacturers—to deliver medicines to patients. Under value-based contracts, biopharmaceutical manufacturers and payers agree to link coverage and reimbursement levels to a drug’s effectiveness and/or how frequently it is utilized. There are three types of value-based solutions:

1. Value-based drug coverage arrangements. In this case, payors cover only drugs that others have deemed valuable. Uptake on these has been slow, said Dr. Brixner, due to resistance on the part of both patients and manufacturers.

2. Outcomes-based contracts. These are a type of VBC in which the health plan works with manufacturers to study disease states with measurable clinical outcomes. Such arrangements are not always disclosed but seem to be increasing.

3. Value-based insurance designs. These arrangements look for areas to reduce or eliminate patients’ copays and deductibles for therapies that have demonstrated preventive and health care benefits. CVS recently implemented a plan with zero copays for preventive medicine.

Tyrone's Commentary:

These manufacturer revenues (rebate dollars) are in your PBM contract albeit the fine print. Most PBMs will try to exclude plan sponsors from participating in these cost-offsets but don't be fooled. You are entitled to every penny.

There are several potential factors limiting manufacturers’ interest in outcomes-based contracting, including a potential inability to obtain accurate data and outcomes measures, inability to discuss information that is outside the FDA-approved label, and regulatory barriers that prevent disclosing information, according to a recent AMCP membership survey (J Manag Care Spec Pharm 2018;24[5]:410-415).

The same survey found that payors, too, were concerned with identifying simple and easily measurable outcomes, wanted greater risk sharing with manufacturers, and were concerned with meeting a sufficient patient population to make the agreement worthwhile.

Continue Reading>>

Sunday, February 23, 2020

3 ways PBMs can team up with employers to save on specialty drugs

1. Improved care coordination and communication

Click to Learn More
Controlling specialty spend is about supporting patients and working with their healthcare team to ensure that treatment is safe and effective. Medications that don’t work as they should translate to poor health outcomes, which drive up overall costs.

PBMs are perfectly positioned to work with all members of a patient’s healthcare team to improve communication. PBM pharmacists have access to all data gathered from prescription claims and, potentially, integrated medical claims data. This allows them to see a comprehensive picture of the patient’s medication history, diagnoses, lab results, indicators of adherence and other applicable medical data. As a result, PBM pharmacists can alert prescribers and retail pharmacists of any issues and facilitate the identification of safer, more effective treatment options.

2. Advanced clinical programs

To be able to provide effective care coordination, PBMs must also offer comprehensive, advanced clinical programs. Prior authorization provides an example of how clinical programs are not created equal. The intention of prior authorization is to make certain medications are used appropriately. But does the analysis review whether the medication is appropriate for a specific individual’s needs? Not all prior authorization programs do. A comprehensive program considers whether there are warnings and contraindications related to factors such as the patient’s age, health conditions, metabolism, lifestyle or other medications they may be taking.

3. Creative contracting and partnerships

Finally, plan sponsors need a PBM that works with them, putting the plan’s and patients’ best interests first while delivering ethical, transparent benefit management. They should consider PBMs that tie performance guarantees directly to their clinical programs. A pay-for-performance arrangement holds the PBM accountable for how well it facilitates responsible, effective drug utilization that reduces the plan’s spending.

Continue Reading >>

Friday, February 21, 2020

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 302)

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.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Tip of the Week: Don't Give Up Leverage to PBMs

When you have something someone else wants you have leverage. You may use leverage to compel people to change their behavior, change the shape of time, move forward your position, and make concessions. For this reason, leverage is currency and it must be used as such. It has value and must be exchanged for value.

Effective negotiators never give away leverage without getting something of equal or greater value in return. In today’s PBM procurement environment, winners are selected before the PBM consultant ever drafts, negotiates and finalizes the PBM contract. Because the PBM is essentially competing against itself, this puts the plan sponsor at a huge disadvantage.

When finalists or winners are selected before the contract is finalized, plan sponsors relinquish the leverage necessary to win any additional contractual concessions. Memorialize details in the contract languange that are important to your organization before notifying finalists and selecting winners.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

New report alleges that pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) in Florida are favoring their own affiliated pharmacies

Although the cost-of-dispensing (COD) incurred by pharmacists in Florida is $10.24 per claim, according to the state's COD analysis, this required pharmacy reimbursement methodology does not apply to Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) that contract with PBMs. The report's analysis of Florida's top 7 MCOs found that pharmacies were paid a weighted average of $2.72 per claim in 2018—significantly lower than the $10.24 COD and down from $7.70 in 2014.


The authors noted, however, that not all pharmacies seem to be experiencing this pressure equally. In 2018, the state's 5 largest specialty pharmacies collected 28% of the available profits paid to all providers in Florida Medicaid managed care, despite dispensing just 0.4% of all managed care claims. Based on these findings, the authors wrote, "MCOs and PBMs appear to be using their control in managed care to incrementally shift dollars to their affiliated companies."

Tyrone's Commentary:

A contract rate is the reimbursement level agreed to between a single pharmacy and the PBM. The effective rate, however, is the blended performance rate among a group of pharmacies. It is the difference between these two contract rates which can create spreads and hidden cash flow to non-fiduciary PBMs. That spread can be taken during claim adjudication or after in the form of DIR fees. A spread is the difference between the amount reimbursed to the pharmacy and billed to the plan sponsor. Spreads are often much larger than a plan sponsor believes especially when measured on a pharmacy-by-pharmacy basis.
      
Generic and Branded Drug Spend Analysis

The authors said PBMs set generic prices differently for different pharmacies, which can create a significant advantage for pharmacies affiliated with the PBM. For example, they noted the displacement of Walgreens pharmacies by CVS pharmacies in both Staywell/Wellcare and Sunshine/Centene MCOs during the period when CVS Caremark was providing PBM services to those organizations.1

Furthermore, the report said payments for generic drugs vary greatly across MCOs and between PBMs within the same MCO. As an example, the authors noted that in 2018, Sunshine/Centene (managed partly by CVS Caremark) reported the cost of generic aripiprazole (Abilify, Otsuka America Pharmaceutical) to be $11.18, $0.53, and $0.24 at CVS, Small Pharmacies, and Public, respectively.

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Friday, January 31, 2020

New Report: Health Plans, PBMs, Employers, and Health Systems Keep $166B in Rebates and Discounts Provided by Drugmakers

The results of a new study find that almost half of spending on brand medicines in the United States goes to pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), hospitals, health insurers, the government and others – and not to biopharmaceutical companies.

The report from the Berkeley Research Group (BRG) shows that between 2013 and 2018, the amount of money spent on brand drugs that supply chain components and other entities retained for themselves has grown to about 46 percent of total spending. In contrast, the portion of the spending that actually goes to the biopharmaceutical companies that spend billions to discover, develop and produce those medicines continues to decline, to about 54 percent of the revenue in 2018.

Source: Berkeley Research Group

BRG reported that between 2015 and 2018, the growth in total revenue for biopharmaceutical companies from sales of brand medicines was, on average, 2.6 percent annually, which the report notes is in line with inflation. During that same period, U.S. biopharmaceutical companies continued their time-consuming, risky and expensive pursuit of medical innovation, producing nearly 200 new cures and treatments.

Download Full Report >>

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Physician Practices Must Create a System to Deal with PBM Drug Denials

In today’s pharmacy benefit management environment, it is costing practices more staff time and money to simply get the right drugs to their patient, but the alternative is an angry, unhappy patient. “Staff working with PBMs must be advocates for your patients,” said Patti Barkey, COE, chief executive officer of Bowden Eye and Associates.

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“This is one of the areas where there are a lot of things that are out of our control but at the end of the day, the patient experience is very much expected to be in our control by the patient.” She warned of this scenario: A patient is given a prescription, goes to the pharmacy to pick it up and is told they can’t have it, without ever having been told that could happen.

Tyrone's Commentary:

Amen! Finally, a physician on record not pointing the finger and accepting some accountability. That being said, PBMs too must continue to work on making the process of filling prescriptions more efficient and transparent. Employers and brokers alike should also recognize that with rising drug costs, formularies become more restrictive to offset those rising costs. 

A tightly managed formulary doesn't mean it is less effective, necessarily. In fact, the opposite is usually true. Employees achieve similar outcomes at lower costs with tightly managed formularies. If a tablet form is significantly less expensive than a capsule, the tablet is covered while the capsule is not, for instance.

She encouraged attendees to create systems and processes to streamline addressing drug denials, prior authorizations and the review of alternatives. “We have to create systems in our organizations to better understand this process,” she said.

“If you look at the struggles taking place, ... we can’t get the right prescriptions to the patients a lot of the time. New drugs are coming out and new things are getting approved, and we know the patients need them. My senior physician likes to say the prescribing of drug is just a suggestion these days – it is not an order.”

Continue Reading >>

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

PBM 101 Webinar: How to Slash PBM Service Fees, up to 50%, Without Reducing Benefits or Shifting Costs to Employees

How many businesses do you know will voluntarily cut their revenues in half? This is the reason non-fiduciary pharmacy benefit managers are reluctant to offer radical transparency. Instead, they opt for hidden cash flow opportunities to foster growth. 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 streams in the PBM Industry
  • How to calculate the EACD or earnings after cash disbursements
  • Basic to intermediate level PBM terminologies
  • Pros and cons of PBM price benchmarks
  • Cost-containment strategies to implement today

Sincerely,
TransparentRx
Tyrone D. Squires, MBA  
10845 Griffith Peak Drive, Suite 200  
Las Vegas, NV 89135  
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, January 24, 2020

Self-Insured Employers Turning to PBMs to Fight Prescription Drug Abuse

More than 10 million people in the United States misused a prescription opioid in 2018, and the opioid epidemic cost the country $179 billion including mortality, health care expenses, lost productivity, criminal justice expenses and assistance. The National Safety Council notes that the annual direct health care costs of individuals who misuse opioids are 8.7 times higher than those who do not.

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The opioid epidemic offers an example of a preventable, complex public health and safety issue that has arisen due to a perfect storm of causative factors. Consequently, it requires multiple stakeholders to develop and deliver an effective solution to help lower costs and improve patient health outcomes. These stakeholders include health care providers, pharmacies, drug manufacturers and even employers.

Tyrone's Commentary:

Benzodiazepines, sometimes called "benzos", are a class of psychoactive drugs whose core chemical structure is the fusion of a benzene ring and a diazepine ring. Benzodiazepines can be taken in overdoses and can cause dangerous deep unconsciousness. When combined with other central nervous system (CNS) depressants such as alcoholic drinks and opioids, the potential for toxicity and fatal overdose increases. 

Benzodiazepines are commonly misused and taken in combination with other drugs of abuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse statistics, about 30% of what is labeled opioid overdose is actually opioid-benzodiazepine overdose. Benzodiazepines might be a 'hidden element' of the US' overdose epidemic -- and doctor visits for prescriptions are increasing.

Abuse of Xanax, Valium or any other benzodiazepines can quickly lead to addiction and place a person at risk of overdose and deadly withdrawal symptions. Because we have the tools, PBMs must take the lead in preventing the abuse of benzos from becoming another opioid crisis.

However, the pharmacy benefit manager is one player in the opioid crisis that fills a critical role by employing clinical programs to ensure safe and appropriate utilization of medications. The PBM is a third-party administrator of prescription drug programs and primarily responsible for contracting with pharmacies for network services, negotiating discounts and rebates with drug manufacturers, developing and maintaining the plan’s list of covered drugs (a formulary), and processing and paying prescription drug claims.

Continue Reading >>

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 301)

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, January 14, 2020

U.S. Supreme Court to hear case on States’ Right to Regulate Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM)

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case brought by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge against the pharmacy benefit management (PBM) industry, according to a statement issued Friday (Jan. 10) from Rutledge’s office.

The legal battle began with Act 900, passed by the Arkansas Legislature in 2015, which sought to require pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to reimburse pharmacies at or above their wholesale costs paid for generic drugs and prevents them from paying their own drugstores more than they pay others.

Tyrone's Commentary:

I owned a mail-order pharmacy and cashed out in 2010 but not before some tough lessons. One of those lessons, the large PBMs wanted less competition and had the knowledge and power to make that happen. Needless to say, this case resonates with me. I had two choices; die slowly or create a business model which I could compete with non-fiduciary PBMs on my terms not theirs. I chose the latter.

On the front end, non-fiduciary PBMs woo plan sponsors with pricing guarantees that appear "real." The back-end is a different story. DIR fees allow non-fiduciary PBMs to earn "hidden cash flow" by clawing back a percentage of reimbursements long after the claim has been adjudicated, for example. I hear far too often from HR Business Partners, CFOs, employee benefits brokers and consultants, "what do I care about DIR Fees as long as my guarantees are being met." It's myopic to think this way.

These hidden cash flows (reimbursing below acquisition cost) put pharmacies out of business. Not coincidentally, this leads to less competition for PBMs who own chain stores and large mail-order pharmacy operations. You guessed it less competition means you will pay more; now or later.

In a 2017 ruling that otherwise dismissed a lawsuit by the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, which represents PBMs, U.S. District Judge Brian Miller said Act 900 was preempted in health plans regulated by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco recommended Dec. 5 that the Arkansas case – Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, No.18-540 – be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rutledge has argued that more than 16% of rural pharmacies closed in recent years due to declining PBM payments on generic prescriptions causing Arkansans to be unable to receive necessary medications. Three PBMs dominate the market – CVS Caremark, which is part of the corporation that operates the CVS drugstore chain, OptumRx and Express Scripts.
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Continue Reading >>

Saturday, January 11, 2020

PBM 101 Webinar: How to Slash PBM Service Fees, up to 50%, Without Changing Vendors or Member Benefit Levels

How many businesses do you know will voluntarily cut their revenues in half? This is the reason non-fiduciary pharmacy benefit managers are reluctant to offer radical transparency. Instead, they opt for hidden cash flow opportunities to foster growth. 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 the cost of pharmacy benefit manager services
  • 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  
10845 Griffith Peak Drive, Suite 200  
Las Vegas, NV 89135  
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.