“New” May Not Equal “Better”
Recent medical research reports that overall new pharmaceuticals have not improved significantly on those developed many years ago, despite over $50 billion invested in development since the mid-2000s. In fact, one study indicated effectiveness has dropped sharply since the 1970s. A ranking of new drugs in a respected health care journal showed less than 2% are seen as a “real advance” in treating patients.
And there may be increased attention on this issue through the Affordable Care Act’s establishment of an independent research institute focused on evaluating the effectiveness of various treatment options for a given condition. The net result could be insurers and government programs determining that older drugs, often in generic form, are more effective than costly new offerings. The outcomes may place greater scrutiny on whether drug manufacturers should be allowed to claim extended patent protection for small changes, with the opportunity for a big marketing push.
This is not so say that important advances are not being made. But it is clear that careful evaluation of comparative drug effectiveness, new vs. old, is coming to the fore. To help plan sponsors address these challenges, the Keenan Pharmacy Purchasing Coalition (KPPC) can help incorporate programs, such as “step therapy,” into your employee health benefits to encourage the use of lower cost generic drugs before the newest, most expensive products are prescribed. With evidence mounting that in many cases patient outcomes are as good or better with lower cost generics, pharmacy management approaches can be a win-win for both patients and plan sponsors.
With over 280,000 currently enrolled, the negotiating strength of KPPC allows members to take advantage of volume discount pricing and the most generous manufacturer rebates. As Health Care Reform kicks in, effective management of all facets of employee benefits will increasingly be in the spotlight. That includes making sound decisions in pharmacy management.