Feb 7, 2024 - Health

Exclusive: Biden admin officials push pharmacy execs on Paxlovid costs

A box of Paxlovid.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Biden administration officials this week pushed executives from leading pharmacy chains to make sure frontline staff are providing patients with accurate information about costs of the COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid, officials told Axios first.

Why it matters: Uptake of the Pfizer antiviral has remained stubbornly low since it transitioned to the commercial market in the fall, in part because of patients sometimes being charged up to the full list price of $1,400.

Details: Officials tracking Paxlovid's commercial rollout have closely monitored anecdotal reports in the past few weeks of patients being charged high co-pays for Paxlovid at pharmacy counters rather than being directed to Pfizer-operated patient assistance programs.

  • Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra "made it clear that no patient should be charged hundreds of dollars for Paxlovid at the pharmacy counter," according to a readout of this week's meeting with leaders from CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Rite Aid and Kroger.

Catch up quick: HHS officials have previously met with pharmacies, pharmacy benefit managers and insurers, as well as health care providers on commercialization concerns.

  • Under an agreement between HHS and Pfizer, Medicare and Medicaid enrollees can receive Paxlovid for free through 2024, and uninsured individuals can receive Paxlovid for free through 2028.
  • Commercially insured patients can also get co-pay assistance through 2028.

What they're saying: "Our focus is ensuring patients have access to this important treatment and we are committed to ensuring eligible patients have a $0 co-pay," a Walgreens spokesperson said in a statement.

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