Express Scripts and GoodRx target rising drug costs with new program
The nation's largest pharmacy benefit manager, Express Scripts, has partnered with drug discount program GoodRx to try to lower the cost of brand-name drug prescriptions, the companies announced Monday.
The companies say the new program, Inside Rx, will reduce the cost of more than 40 popular branded drugs by an average of 34% off the retail price, including some of the most commonly prescribed drugs for diabetes and asthma. Patients can present the coupons via mobile app at one of 40,000 participating U.S. retail pharmacies including CVS, the Kroger Co.'s Family of Pharmacies and Walgreens, potentially saving individuals $1,600 a year, the companies said.
The program is one of many proposed solutions through discount programs, new policy and legislation that attempt to mitigate rising drug prices. It's a problem that has vexed consumers, providers and payers alike and sparked a number of lawsuits. The increasing costs have tightened margins, led to coverage disputes and caused providers to shift strategies.
"We have a unique opportunity to put medicine within reach of those who need it. By practicing pharmacy smarter, we are bringing together companies across healthcare to truly deliver value," Express Scripts CEO Tim Wentworth said in a statement. "We are proud to power a novel solution that makes brand-name medicines more affordable and accessible, particularly for people without prescription coverage."
Prescription drug spending has increased 10% annually for Blue Cross and Blue Shield members since 2010, amounting to an overall rise of 73%, according to a Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association study published last week. A sharp increase in the price of a small fraction of new patented drugs is the main driver of annual growth in national pharmaceutical spending, research shows.
"Ten percent price increases a year for drugs we use a lot really hit our budget," Dr. Scott Knoer, chief pharmacy officer of Cleveland Clinic, told Modern Healthcare last week. "Margins are tightening across the board."
Discount programs such as GoodRx and Blink Health say they offer savings on drugs through coupons and online ordering , and an array of websites offer price estimates. There are also a variety of bills moving through Congress that seek to introduce more competition via cheaper generic drugs as well as high-profile lawsuits that claim drug companies and PBMs orchestrated sales schemes to promote higher-cost drugs over others.
The trend of rising drug costs will likely continue, said Maureen Sullivan, chief strategy and innovation officer for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. A lack of competition, extended patents, high production costs and a minimal supply of manufacturers have all contributed to the drug spikes, healthcare researchers said.
"We are pleased to participate in Express Scripts' new program that will play an important role in helping underinsured and uninsured patients receive the medicines they need at a price they can afford," Brad Fluegel, senior vice president and chief healthcare commercial market development officer of Walgreens, said in a statement.
Inside Rx is Express Scripts' partially owned subsidiary that collaborates with participating retail pharmacies and major pharmaceutical companies including Boehringer Ingelheim, Eli Lilly and Co., Lundbeck, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi, Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Teva Pharmaceuticals. The program is not available to members enrolled in government-sponsored health programs including Medicare and Medicaid.
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