Drug Channels delivers timely analysis and provocative opinions from Adam J. Fein, Ph.D., the country's foremost expert on pharmaceutical economics and the drug distribution system. Drug Channels reaches an engaged, loyal and growing audience of more than 80,000 subscribers and followers. Learn more...

Friday, December 20, 2013

The 2013 Drug Channels Year in Review

Dear Drug Channels reader,

Whew. It’s been a crazy, busy year. Thank you for welcoming me into your inboxes and browsers. I’ve had fun writing about this year’s unexpected, unusual, and fascinating events. I’m grateful to our many sponsors and guest writers. Special thanks to the brave souls who joined in the spirited discussions below the articles.

This was also big year for Drug Channels. We hit almost 8,000 subscribers, started tweeting @DrugChannels, and proudly launched the Drug Channels Institute (DCI), a management education and computer-based training business for and about the pharmaceutical industry.

Below, I gift wrap 2013’s six biggest themes, so you can unwrap your favorite articles for the holidays.

Drug Channels will return in the new year. In the meantime, please enjoy our Drug Channels video greeting. As a special treat, you can see me dancing with my wife, Paula, who runs DCI’s e-learning business.

Here’s my 2014 promise to you: If you like your Drug Channels, you can keep your Drug Channels. Period.

All the best to you and your family,

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Our Evolving Channels: CBI Trade and Channel Strategies Wrap-Up

Last week, we attended CBI’s 9th Annual Trade and Channel Strategies conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The keynote speaker was none other than Adam J. Fein, Ph.D.

Dr. Fein and others pointed out that manufacturer trade activities must evolve into an integrated channel strategy commercial function.

Below, we summarize other key takeaways from the meeting, including alternative distribution strategies, the outlook for buy-and-bill, and the emergence of boundary-spanning organized customers.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Benchmarking Manufacturers' PBM Rebates

The Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute (PBMI) has just released its 2013-2014 Prescription Drug Benefit Cost and Plan Design Report. (Free download.) This report provides invaluable insight into employer-sponsored pharmacy benefits. Drug Channels again salutes Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America for having sponsored the research.

As far as I know, the PBMI report offers the only public benchmarking data on manufacturer rebates to pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). A few highlights:
  • Employers use a wide variety of rebate structures, including per-prescription guarantees and percentage shares. Nearly one-third of smaller employers get no rebates.
  • Rebates average $17 per 30-day brand-name retail prescriptions. Surprisingly, rebates were comparable for both large and small employers.
  • On average, PBMs pass more than 80% of rebates back to employers.
Read on for details from the report. And don’t forget to join me at the PBMI’s Annual Drug Benefit Conference in February.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Express Scripts Plans a Specialty Drug Price War

According to a new must-read Bloomberg story, Express Scripts plans to start a price war over new hepatitis C treatments. The news follows the release of Gilead’s Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), which reportedly costs $1,000 per pill.

Express Scripts projects that Hepatitis C drug trend will grow by 168% by 2015, so payers are closely watching this test case. When there are multiple treatments in a therapeutic class, can the biggest PBM really control specialty drug costs?

While Express Scripts is talking boldly, the empty threat of blocking valuable medications has come back to life more times than a narcoleptic Jason Voorhees.

Read on for details on the unlucky hepatitis C medications that may be cut (or not) by Express Scripts’ machete.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cardinal and CVS Caremark Form a Generic Power Buyer: Deal Analysis

If you can’t beat ‘em…

Yesterday, Cardinal Health (NYSE: CAH) and CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS) announced a new 50/50 generic drug buying joint venture. See CVS Caremark And Cardinal Health Announce Creation Of Largest Generic Sourcing Entity In U.S.

Shocking? Not really. As I noted in Quantifying Generic Buying Power for McKesson-Celesio, big deals have a funny way of spawning more deals. Et tu, Express Scripts?

The joint venture structure and deal terms make it a win-win for CVS Caremark and Cardinal. Both companies will gain significant scale going into the upcoming wave of newly-generic drugs. Read on for the details and comments on the new joint venture structure.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Three New Specialty Pharmacy Deals Signal The Boom Ahead

There have been three major specialty pharmacy announcements over the last week.
  • Long term care pharmacy Pharmerica acquired a minority stake in fast-growing specialty pharmacy Onco360
  • Express Scripts opened up its specialty pharmacy network to physicians in the RainTree Oncology network
  • Grocery chain Giant Eagle bought Rx21, a small transplant/hepatitis C specialty pharmacy
Pay attention. As these deals show, the specialty market is getting even hotter. Everyone wants specialty drug revenue. Read on to find out who’s moving in.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Transparent Drug Pricing Is Good for All

Today’s guest post is from George Kitchens, RPh, President of Artia Solutions, and consultant for Elsevier.

In this new post, Kitchens revisits the topic of drug price transparency and discusses how Predictive Acquisition Cost (PAC) helps ensure accurate reimbursement rates for both pharmacies and payers. To learn more, download Elsevier’s most recent report on PAC use cases across the industry, entitled Achieving Cost Savings with Accurate Drug Price Information: Industry Use Cases for PAC.

Please contact George Kitchens (gkitchens@artiasolutions.com) with any questions about the article.

Friday, December 06, 2013

We’re All A-Twitter!

Great news! You can now find more fresh information tidbits on the Drug Channels Twitter page.

At our page, @DrugChannels, you’ll find our carefully curated, hand-crafted selection of news and opinions about drug distribution, pharmaceutical economics, reimbursement, payers, current events, and more.

Follow us to learn about the events we attend, get up-to-the-minute news via live tweets, and view fun photos of us in action.

Sample tweets below. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

3 Reasons Why CVS Caremark Absorbed Coram

While you were busy brining a turkey last week, CVS Caremark purchased Coram LLC, the specialty infusion services and enteral nutrition business unit of Apria Healthcare Group. Read the press release.

I spot three factors behind the deal:
  • Home infusion is a fast-growing channel for specialty drugs, so the deal deepens CVS/pharmacy’s footprint as a major dispensing channel. CVS can also catch up to Walgreens.
  • Home infusion can be a cheaper site of care, which helps Caremark’s specialty benefit management PBM business. Oddly, CVS Caremark’s own data shows home infusion to be more expensive than in-office treatment. See the chart below.
  • Benefit coverage for home infusion specialty drugs is fragmented across the pharmacy and medical benefits. Payers are therefore looking for integrated management, visibility, and control.
Read on for details and background, some of which appeared a mere two weeks ago in CVS Caremark’s 2013 specialty trend report. CVS Caremark continues to expand throughout the healthcare system, swallowing up adjacent sectors with ease.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Attention, Hospital Shoppers: Cancer Markup Madness

Ever wonder why cancer care costs so much more in a hospital than in a doctor’s office? A Milliman, Inc., study—Comparing Episode of Cancer Care Costs in Different Settings: An Actuarial Analysis of Patients Receiving Chemotherapy—has an answer. (Free download).

The report compared cancer treatment costs in outpatient hospital departments vs. outpatient physician offices. As we highlight below, hospitals inflate drug expenses far beyond acquisition costs.
  • For treatment in a physician office, total drug costs range from $12,000 to $62,000. 
  • For treatment in a hospital outpatient setting, total drug costs range from $18,000 to $91,000. 
  • The markups are especially egregious for such higher-cost specialty drug therapies as cytotoxic chemotherapies and biologics.
Once again, we see that hospitals can generate more revenue from specialty drug administration than can independent physician-owned clinics. Drug channel intermediaries can add to drug prices, with different markups for different channels.

Read on to see how shopping for cancer drugs in a hospital setting can bag you a very bum deal.

Monday, December 02, 2013

PBMI’s 2014 Drug Benefit Conference

Check out this cool conference: The Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute (PBMI) will host its 19th Annual Drug Benefit Conference at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas, on February 3-5, 2014.

Many attendees will be from employers, health plans, and unions, so you’ll learn the payers' perspectives on pharmacy benefits. Highlights include multiple sessions on specialty drug management as well as the latest techniques for pharmacy benefit manager oversight. Check out the session descriptions.

Register before January 10, 2014, to get the early bird rates. Drug Channels readers can register with promo code PC2014 and receive an additional $300 off registration. Thanks, PBMI!

I’ll be attending, but not presenting. See you in Las Vegas.