Pharmacy Update: July 2

Big Pharma shelled out $3 billion to doctors and teaching hospitals in 2018. As massive marketing crackdowns and kickbacks circulate through U. S. courtrooms, scrutiny on pharma’s financial ties to healthcare providers has never been higher. But instead of scaling back its payments to doctors and hospitals last year, Big Pharma leaned in even further.

Drug and device makers shelled out $3 billion to doctors and teaching hospitals in 2018, a 3.5% increase from the previous years, according to the Open Payments database published June 30 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). These payments include everything from royalties paid to teaching hospitals to physicians speaking and consulting fees to free food and travel. The industry paid out an additional $4.93 billion for research and development.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey joined 43 other attorneys general in a suit against national generic companies. The suit alleges the drug companies conspired to inflate and manipulate prices, cut competition and restrain trade for more than 100 different drugs. The suit lists more than a dozen senior executives as defendants, including two executives who colluded to split market share for blood pressure medication.

In a related note, Morrisey reports the State of West Virginia is beginning to make progress in ts fight against the opioid epidemic. “Our most important news is opioid prescriptions have decreased significantly,” he said.

CVS will open “hundreds” of SmileDirectClub locations inside its stores this year, with plans to open more than 1,000 locations over the next two years. Called a SmileShop, customers can receive a 3D scan of their teeth that will be used to create a pair of invisible braces.

The deaths of 64 people and sickening of nearly 800 due to criminal negligence by employees of the New England Compounding Center marked a profound failure of state and federal regulatory enforcement. That horrific episode led to Congress including the Drug Quality and Security Act provisions to create a more robust regulatory framework for compounding pharmacies. The legislation is to assure patient safety while permitting local compounders to continue to meet patient needs by providing customized compounded medications using FDA-approved substances.

One hundred and fifty (150) members of the U. S. House of Representatives sent a letter to President Donald Trump noting the “missed opportunity” to reduce seniors’ out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs. This missed opportunity occurred when pharmacy direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fee reform was excluded form a recent Medicaid rule. In late June, 28 bipartisan members of the Senate, led by Senators Shelley Moore Capito and John Testers sent a similar letter to the President.

The Governor of California just issued an order for his state to carve pharmacy out of its Medicaid program. West Virginia carved pharmacy out about two years ago, resulting in significant savings to the agency.

Final Notes: WVPA member-pharmacist Vicki Cunningham, who headed-up the West Virginia Medicaid Prescription Drug Program for several years, concluded her service with the agency June 30.