World Mental Health Day was this week and celebrities shared personal stories and called for an end to stigma about mental health disorders. Our favorite commemoration came from Prince Harry and Ed Sheeran who jested about stigma against redheads. On a more serious note, “the Good Place” actress Jameela Jamil shared an emotional post about her suicide attempt.
These moments of observation remind us of the importance of helping people with mental illnesses – and – make us proud that 140 new therapies are in development by the pharmaceutical industry to treat mental health disorders.
With that in mind, on with the news, which gave us hope and a bit of anxiety this week.
Mo' Money, Mo' Problems
By Che Knight
Turns out, some blockbuster drugs are breaking the bank to the tune of $5.1 billion – at least according to independent watchdog group, Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER). Earlier this week, ICER published a report on Unsupported Price Increases of Prescription Drugs in the US. The report identifies the “drugs whose price increases would have contributed to the largest net increase in drug spending in the US,” and determined that the US spending impact of these price increases in the period 2017-2018 was more than $5B.
The analysis identified and ranked 100 drugs whose price increases contributed the most to US drug spending. Within that list, ICER called out seven drugs, all blockbusters with large patient populations, that it said lacked evidence to support additional clinical benefit, and therefore could not justify the price increase. The report additionally names two drugs that did have important clinical evidence – although ICER is careful to caveat that this doesn’t mean the evidence is sufficient to justify their price increases.
Implications for manufacturers
Although a number of factors go into pricing a drug, and increases can be attributed to many causes from coverage issues to supply chain challenges, ICER’s interest remains singularly focused on drug price as it impacts patients and the larger system.
What you need to know:
If you have questions, hit us up.
Pulse on Policy: Marching in
By Michelle Leeds
As the debate over reigning in drug pricing continues to run hot in Washington and on the campaign trail, the proposals from Democratic candidates are ratcheting up the pressure on their favorite boogeyman. This week, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg released a proposal that would engage an obscure section of a 1980 law that allows the federal government to break a patent on a drug if it deems the price is too high.
The concept is called “march in rights” because, under the law, the government has the right to “march in” and take back a patent that originated in publicly-funded research if the public does not have sufficient access to the goods. The provision has never been exercised, but even the threat of ignoring the exclusivity of a patent can give the government leverage in negotiations.
Senators Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris have also proposed this idea in their drug plans, while Senator Elizabeth Warren has otherwise endorsed the concept. The key takeaway here is that candidates are exploring tools the president has at his or her disposal that do not require a stymied Congress to pass legislation.
With all this heightened rhetoric, it’s no wonder PhRMA is reportedly now lobbying for a compromise on legislation this year – rather than take their chances with a less friendly administration in 2021.
We’re continuing to monitor the situation so stay tuned!
Who wrote this? The managing editor of TWTW is Randi Kahn, who is still deciding what to wear for an upcoming Halloween party. Please send creative suggestions. Syneos Health Communications' Reputation & Risk Management Practice is a team of healthcare communications consultants, policy-shapers and crisis response specialists. We provide unique solutions to the evolving communications challenges in today’s healthcare industry, using evidence-based approaches to help our clients successfully navigate the most sensitive of situations.
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