Thursday, April 08, 2004

Drug costs redux.

Who knows? Maybe drug costs will be the leading edge of a health-care reform movement that drags the country, kicking and screaming, into universal coverage (maybe single-payer, but probably not). Lord knows we are working overtime trying to figure out how to make drugs affordable, or it least make it look as though we are trying to make drugs affordable.

The Medicare reform law last fall [Pub. L. No. 108-173] falls into that latter category: many Medicare beneficiaries will pay more out of pocket for their drugs than before this so-called reform, and their ability to lay off the risk through third-party insurance is restricted by the law. But the political message was, "Hi, we're Congress and we're here to help you with your staggering drug bills," and AARP and others bought it. (Tip: When the drug companies support a drug reform bill, hold on to your wallet.)

Maine has been experimenting with a plan to keep drug costs low for Medicaid beneficiaries, and despite being fought tooth and nail by the drug companies' representative, they had their law upheld in the Supreme Court last Term [PhRMA v. Walsh].

In addition, the on-going controversy over reimportation of drugs from Canada is a symptom of the lengths to which employers will go in order to lower sky-high drug costs, as well as the absurd lengths to which the FDA will sometimes go to promote the interests of Big Pharm. (Thankfully, this policy is currently under review, though nothing is expected to come of the review anytime soon.)

More recently, the Detroit Free Press reports in yesterday's paper that Michigan's drug price control law was upheld by the D.C. Circuit last week. The case, PhRMA v. Thompson, No. 02-5117 (D.C. Cir. April 2, 2004), affirmed summary judgment for DHHS, which had been sued by PhRMA for approving the Michigan plan ("the Initiative")"
Under the Initiative, if a drug manufacturer does not sign each of two specified rebate agreements with Michigan—one to provide rebates for drugs the state purchases for Medicaid recipients and the other to provide identical rebates for drugs the state purchases for the two non-Medicaid state health programs—the drug will be covered under the programs subject to ‘‘prior authorization.’’. . .
The court concluded that the resulting plan adequately promotes the best interests of patients and provides for a suitable appeal mechanism is a physician believes a nonlisted drug would be better for the patient than one of the discounted listed drugs.

posted by Tom Mayo, 4:16 PM

Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter