Mar 29, 2017

Drug companies and benefit managers throw punches over drug prices

Carlos Delgado / AP

Pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy benefit managers are pointing fingers at each other to explain why patients are spending more out of their own wallets for their prescription drugs. The latest battle revolves around the list prices of drugs.

PhRMA's jab: A report Wednesday from the main drug industry lobbying group, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said half of out-of-pocket spending by people with commercial health insurance on brand-name prescription drugs comes from deductibles and coinsurance. Those are based on the drug's higher list price and do not factor in negotiated rebates. The health plans and pharmacy benefit managers "do not share these discounts with patients who pay a deductible or coinsurance," PhRMA said.

The counterpunch: The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, which represents pharmacy benefit managers, quickly defended itself by saying the "simplest, most obvious way for drugmakers to reduce costs and improve access is to cut their prices."

Between the lines: Both sides raise valid concerns. Drug companies ultimately decide the prices of their products, and if they want patient cost-sharing to be lower, it would come at the expense of higher premiums. However, the middlemen are demanding bigger rebates in exchange for putting drugs on their formularies, which encourages drug companies to keep prices high to give bigger rebates. It's a vicious cycle on both ends of a profitable system.

Go deeper

Trump's clemency spree

Rod Blagojevich in 2010. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Trump announced Tuesday that he commuted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's 14-year prison sentence for extortion, bribery and corruption — as well as issuing full pardons for former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik and financier Michael Milken.

The big picture: The president's clemency spree largely benefitted white-collar criminals convicted of crimes like corruption, gambling fraud and racketeering, undercutting his message of "draining the swamp."

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump's improbable moonshot

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

NASA is unlikely to meet its deadline of sending astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024, even with a large influx of funding.

Why it matters: The Artemis mission to send people back to the Moon is the Trump administration's flagship space policy, and its aggressive, politically-motivated timeline is its hallmark.

Go deeperArrow3 hours ago - Science

Justice Department says U.S. attorneys are reviewing Ukraine information

Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd sent a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) Tuesday informing him that the U.S. attorneys for the Eastern District of New York and the Western District of Pennsylvania are reviewing "unsolicited" information from the public related to matters involving Ukraine.

Why it matters: Nadler had requested an explanation for the "intake process" that Attorney General Bill Barr stated had been set up in order to receive information that Rudy Giuliani had obtained about the Bidens in Ukraine.