BIO blames insurers in pushback on drug pricing
- BIO, the major biotech trade association, last week unveiled a new website blaming insurers for shifting the cost of drugs onto patients and denying access to new treatments, continuing an aggressive pushback on criticism of industry pricing practices.
- The microsite, un-insurance.com, displays news and statistics which depict insurers as a key driver behind the increased burden felt by consumers in paying for prescription drugs. BIO also highlights a "patient denial of the week" on the site.
- BIO, led by president Jim Greenwood, has been vocal in defending the biotech industry, calling attention to innovative new drugs which have improved outcomes and standards of living for patients. But as companies like Turing, Valeant and Mylan continue to dominate headlines, the industry has struggled to respond effectively.
BIO, like its pharmaceutical counterpart PhRMA, has rolled out a number of marketing campaigns to highlight the positive impact new drugs have had on patient lives. The group recently debuted a new ad titled "Innovation Saves," which emphasizes the need to protect the scientific innovation behind these new drugs — or in other words, the ability of drugmakers to invest billions of dollars in research and development.
Un-insurance.com, on the other hand, puts the spotlight on insurers, detailing higher co-payments and rising insurance premiums.
"For months, we’ve blown the whistle on [insurers'] discriminatory practices, high cost-sharing and cost-shifting, and their blatant falsehoods on what’s driving their premium increases," the trade association said in a statement.
Despite BIO and PhRMA's best efforts, drugmakers have continued to face scrutiny from lawmakers, regulators and the public over sharp increases for prescription drugs. While Turing, Valeant and Mylan have been the most high-profile examples, raising prices on some of their drugs by hundreds or even thousands of percentage points, steady price increases have been the norm across the industry.
A Reuters investigation in April found list prices on four of the top 10 drugs in the U.S. had more than doubled since 2011, while prices on the other six had increased by more than 50%.
Drugmakers and industry advocates often argue that list prices don't take into account the sometimes substantial rebates and discounts given to payers. But a recent Bloomberg report discovered 30 out of 39 blockbuster drugs analyzed by the media company had seen price increases double the rate of inflation between 2009 and 2015, even after accounting for discounts.
Data from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, a widely followed research consultancy, showed net prices on branded drugs grew by 2.8% last year, down substantially from the 5.1% clip seen in 2014.
BIO and others have pointed to this figure as evidence of slowing price growth among branded drugs, although that figure did outpace inflation in the U.S. last year. (Overall inflation increased by 0.8% in the calendar year, while core inflation climbed by 2.1%).
Even though industry-wide branded price growth appears to have moderated from previous years, drugmakers are still feeling the heat. Earlier this month, Allergan CEO Brent Saunders pledged to limit price increases and disavowed what he described as "price gouging actions or predatory pricing" taken by outlier firms in the industry.
While it remains to be seen if any other drugmakers will follow in Saunders' footsteps, the back-and-forth between critics and advocates for the biopharma industry will likely continue apace as the November elections draw closer.
Follow Ned Pagliarulo on Twitter