KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Drug Costs And Pricing Issues Touch Hospitals, Independent Pharmacies

NPR reports on how one hospital made what is termed an "unusual decision" -- it chose to not stock a new drug because it was very costly.

NPR: When A Famous Hospital Didn't Want An Expensive New Drug
Last year, a new drug called Zaltrap was approved as a kind of last-chance therapy for patients with colorectal cancer. Studies suggested Zaltrap worked almost exactly as well as an existing drug, called Avastin. In fact, the main difference between the two drugs seemed to be the price. "I was rather stunned," Dr. Leonard Saltz, who specializes in colorectal cancer, told me. Zaltrap costs about $11,000 per month — about twice as much as Avastin, Saltz said. Saltz and his colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York made what seemed like a very reasonable decision: The hospital would not stock the more expensive drug. But taking cost into account for a new cancer drug was a very unusual decision for the hospital (Kestenbaum, 3/28).

Also in the news, how independent pharmacies are seeking help from state legislators regarding the shift to generics and the role of pharmacy benefit managers -

The Wall Street Journal: Drugstores Press For Pricing Data
America's shift to generic drugs has saved consumers more than a $1 trillion over a decade, but it has taken a heavy toll on independent pharmacists. Now these small businesses are turning to state legislators across the country for help against powerful middlemen that determine how much drugstores are reimbursed for certain medicines. Currently, eight states, including Oregon, are considering such legislation (Martin, 3/27).

The Lund Report: Small Pharmacies Getting Squeeze From Goliath PBMs
Central Drugs Pharmacy has been open for 110 years in downtown Portland, and it specializes in dispensing drugs for those who suffer from HIV. But owner Shelley Bailey told two legislative committees that if abusive business practices by pharmacy benefit managers are not curtailed, she may have to close its doors. She said that pharmacists have been struggling with reimbursements that are completely unpredictable and punitive audits that are often unfounded (Gray, 3/27).

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