The Drug Channels blog delivers timely analysis and provocative opinions on pharmaceutical economics and the drug distribution system. It is written by Adam J. Fein, Ph.D., one of the country's foremost experts on pharmaceutical economics and channel strategy. Learn more...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Inversion Uncertainty: Is Alliance Boots Really Acquiring Walgreens?

Tax inversion is a wonky-sounding term to describe a company’s moving its headquarters from a high-tax nation to a low-tax nation. And now an inversion could relocate the post-2015 Walgreen-Alliance Boots organization from the U.S. to Switzerland.

On last week's earnings call, President and CEO Greg Wasson emphatically denied the possibility of such an inversion. But as I argue below, it will probably happen anyway. If so, Alliance Boots management will end up running the combined company, while Walgreens’ U.S. management and its Deerfield headquarters employees will be unemployed.

Read on and see if you agree…

Thursday, March 27, 2014

340B Hospitals: Not So Charitable

Anyone interested in the future of the 340 drug discount program should read Unfulfilled Expectations: An Analysis of Charity Care Provided by 340B Hospitals, a depressing new report on the program’s current oversight failures.

This analysis, which was funded by the Alliance for Integrity and Reform of 340B (AIR 340B) and conducted by Avalere Health, discovered that most 340B-eligible hospitals do not provide much charity care. (Details below.) Only 22% of hospitals account for 80% of the total charity care that 340B hospitals provide. These new data are consistent with the Office of Inspector General’s recent finding that two-thirds of the hospitals do not offer discounted 340B drug prices to uninsured patients.

Safety Net Hospitals for Pharmaceutical Access (SNHPA) immediately shouted, “Bah! Humbug!” But now that so many uncomfortable 340B facts are being revealed, SNHPA may see its shrill, uncompromising position marginalized as change comes to the program.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Drug Channels News Roundup: March 2014

Get ready for spring by staying inside and reading our latest selection of noteworthy Drug Channels news stories.

In this issue:
  • Bigger—AmerisourceBergen joins the fun in Brazil
  • Badder—Good video on drug costs at hospitals vs. cancer clinics
  • Madder—Oncologists dislike becoming hospital employees
  • Sadder?—States are trying to eliminate specialty drug tiers
Plus, The Onion helps you fill out the rest of your 2014 NCAA Tournament bracket. Win a billion dollars yet?

P.S. Birds aren’t the only things that are tweeting. Follow @Drug Channels for regular updates on news stories that catch our eye.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Co-Pay Offset Programs Are Blooming in Specialty Pharmacy

Just in time for the first day of spring, Zitter Health Insights (ZHI) has released the latest edition of its Co-Pay Offset Monitor. As far as I know, it’s the most complete resource for tracking these controversial programs.

I last reviewed ZHI’s Co-Pay Offset Monitor in September 2012’s A New Reality Check on Co- Pay Offset Programs. The new edition shows dramatic growth since then:
  • There are now 561 co-pay offset programs, up by 34% in less than two years. More than 700 brand-name drugs have co-pay offset programs. (Details below.)
  • More than one-third of specialty pharmacy prescriptions used a co-pay offset program. Usage varied dramatically, however, among therapeutic classes. More than half of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) scripts, for instance, had a co-pay offset, while only 7% of oral oncology prescriptions had one.
ZHI’s data highlight the mixed response to co-pay programs: hated for traditional drugs, but welcome for specialty drugs…for now.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Join me at Armada Health Care’s 2014 Specialty Pharmacy Summit & Expo

Please join me at Armada Health Care’s 2014 Specialty Pharmacy Summit & Expo. This valuable event will take place on May 5-9, 2014, at the wonderful Wynn Las Vegas.

The Summit is a great opportunity for networking with an impressive mix of pharmacies, manufacturers, health plans, wholesalers, hospital systems, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), patient advocacy groups, and others. This year’s agenda looks strong, with a good mix of keynotes and a solid business program. You can get a flavor for the event in my review of last year’s Summit in Armada 2013: Specialty Pharmacy Gets More Competitive.

Read on for more details or register now.

P.S. My wife Paula, who runs Drug Channels Institute’s e-learning business, will be attending this year’s Armada Summit. While this is good news for anyone interested in our e-learning modules, it also means that I won't be coming come home with any more photos like this one.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Straight From the FTC: Why Any Willing Provider Laws Hike Costs

As I describe in Run Away: CMS Abandons Part D Preferred Pharmacy Network Changes, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) plan for wrecking Medicare Part D has been temporarily thwarted.

CMS had proposed changes to the Any Willing Provider (AWP) provisions that would have effectively ended preferred pharmacy networks. Judging by the online comments and emails I’ve received since Tuesday’s article, some readers still don’t grasp how such AWP laws raise healthcare costs.

Not to worry. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) helpfully explains the economic logic in this succinct letter to CMS. It’s a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how competition affects healthcare costs.

If you’re too busy to read this 10-page letter (or my summary below), the key economic issue appears in The Incredibles, one of our family’s favorite movies:
HELEN: Everyone's special, Dash.
DASH: Which is another way of saying no one is.
Read on for the incredible story.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Run Away: CMS Abandons Part D Preferred Pharmacy Network Changes

Not content to rest on its laurels after October’s impressive healthcare.gov launch, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed drastic changes to almost every aspect of the popular Medicare Part D program in January. To no one’s surprise, CMS has now run away from reconsidered this radical overhaul.

As I describe in CMS Wants It That Way: Big Medicare Part D Pharmacy Changes, CMS wanted far-reaching revisions that would have effectively killed preferred pharmacy networks. Medicare Part D is the rare government program that generally works wells and has widespread support from seniors. CMS proposed so many other changes that it created a diverse opposition, including a bipartisan group in Congress.

The final 2014 open enrollment data for Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs) document the consumer appeal of preferred pharmacy networks. Consistent with the preliminary numbers, three out of four (75%) seniors enrolled in a PDP with a preferred pharmacy network design. See the updated summary—and the full text of CMS’s about-face—below. Plus, you can see our exclusive behind-the-scenes video of CMS's deliberations.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Customized Pharma Distribution Strategies

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION FROM CBI

The Customized Pharma Distribution Strategies will take place on May 20-21, 2014 in Philadelphia. It is the only event dedicated entirely to strategies and tactics surrounding new and emerging distribution models. You’ll learn how to leverage product-specific alternative models to optimize your channel strategy.

This year’s event features 8 interactive sessions, 2 in-depth workshops 3 keynote panelists, 13+ stakeholder perspectives and a best practices working group. Speakers come from such companies as BDI Pharma, Cardinal Health Specialty Services, Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy, GE Healthcare, Goldman Sachs, ICS–Amerisource Bergen Specialty Group, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, MG Associates, Pharmaceutical Commerce, Porzio Life Sciences, Sonexus Health, Therapeutics MD, Therigy, UBC – An Express Scripts Company, and more. You won’t want to miss it!

Visit www.cbinet.com/pharmadistribution to learn more.

Drug Channels readers can register with promotional code BAD898 and save $400* off the standard registration rate!

*Cannot be combined with other offers or used towards a current registration. Other restrictions may apply.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

2013 Pharmacy Market Share for Specialty Drugs—and the Biggest Players

Here’s an Oscar-themed look at the 2013 specialty market, adapted from our 2013–14 Economic Report on Retail, Mail, and Specialty Pharmacies.

Our research shows a booming market:
  • In 2013, retail, mail, and specialty pharmacies dispensed about $63 billion in specialty pharmaceuticals.
  • Specialty drugs accounted for 22% of total pharmacy industry revenues.
  • Three companies—Express Scripts, CVS Caremark, and Walgreens—accounted for 63% of revenues from pharmacy-dispensed specialty drugs. The next three largest players had a combined share of about 5%.
Read on for our market share estimates for the top players, observations on the market's structure, and details of my panel discussion with specialty pharmacy leaders at next week’s sPCMA Business Forum.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Medicaid and Government Pricing

The Medicaid and Government Pricing Congress, happening June 2-4 at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, is one of the industry’s largest community gatherings of executives responsible for Contracts, Pricing, Finance, Accounting and Government Programs.

Over the past 15 years, more than 2,500 attendees have benefited from this must-attend meeting, which brings real world topics including Healthcare Reform, Medicaid Expansion, Exchanges, Gross-to-Net, VA/DoD, 340B and Compliance, all into one forum.

Not only is the content and the guidance updates provided at the annual Congress critical, but the networking with industry peers is invaluable. You'll also hear from such government agencies as the Department of Social Services (Connecticut), the Medical Assistance Division (New Mexico), the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), the State of Mississippi Division of Medicaid, the State of Wyoming Medicaid Administrator, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), and more.

With the release of the Final Rule expected in May, this is a must attend Medicaid event for 2014! Visit www.cbi.com/medicaid for more information.

Drug Channels readers are eligible for a $400* savings off of the full, standard registration rate. Mention promotional code MFZ393 when registering.

*Cannot be combined with other offers or used towards a current registration. Other restrictions may apply.