Weekend Update

Congress remains on the campaign trail as the national election day draws close.  The Federal Benefits Open Season starts two weeks from tomorrow on November 14 when Congress comes back to town.

The FEHBlog did run across two interesting drug spending articles this weekend; both appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

The first article suggests that

The drug industry is showing signs it is slowing the pace of price increases after years of hefty hikes, alarming shareholders worried that pressure from politicians, consumers and employers will continue to stifle pricing power.  Shares of many drugmakers, wholesale distributors and pharmacy-benefit managers were battered Friday on new evidence in corporate earnings reports that pharmaceutical companies are declining to ratchet up prices as sharply as in previous years. 

Time will tell.

The other article highlights the important role of insurers in controlling prescription drug costs.

[A health plan] was dismayed when her health plan stopped covering her migraine drug Treximet earlier this year. To buy a pack at the pharmacy would cost $750, compared with a $20 copay when the drug was covered.
“Nothing’s worth $750 for nine pills,” she said. “It’s cruel.”
Instead, the 50-year-old stay-at-home mother from Memphis, Tenn., takes Treximet’s two active ingredients—sumatriptan and naproxen—as separate pills. For these two generic drugs, her copay is zero.

The article explains that

Treximet [which is manufactured by Pernix Therapeutic Holdings] is just one of many drugs whose active ingredients are generic drugs that can be purchased separately at a fraction of the cost. Others include acne cream Acanya, Duexis for rheumatoid pain and weight-loss pill Qsymia, according to data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by GoodRx, a group that compares pharmacy prices for prescription drugs. 

No wonder there’s been a backlash. Where is the competition that would help control these pricing practices? Does the government allow a patent in these situations? The process of drug pricing is akin to the process of making sausage.