Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Prescription Drugs Price War

The cost of prescription drugs is a big issue in providing healthcare in America.

"The chief medical officer, Steve Miller, at Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefit manager in the U.S., has been essentially auctioning off his 80 million customers to the drug companies that will give him the best deal.

Express Scripts and its rivals including CVS/Caremark and OptumRX manage prescription drug coverage for insurers and employers.  They're trying to spark price wars among drug makers by refusing to pay for some brand-name medications unless they get a big discount.

The result is that average costs for many drugs are falling.  At the same time, consumers are being forced to change medications, sometimes to brands that do not work as well for them."

This year more than half of all patients will have a prescription excluded from coverage.

"Express Scripts pioneered a strategy two years ago, when it announced it would no longer pay for 48 brand-name drugs.  Right out of the gate it took on some big-name products, such as Advair - the blockbuster asthma drug made by GlaxoSmithKline, now known as GSK."

"Advair's price had risen more than 20 percent in 2013... Then on Jan. 1, 2014, Express Scripts tossed Advair off its drug list and moved its customers to rival asthma drug. Symbicort."

"The results were immediate.  Sales of Advair dropped $1.8 billion that year.  The prices of both Advair and Symbicort fell 20 percent in 2014 and are still falling.  Advair was restored to Express Scripts' formulary last year."

What would you suggest is the best way to bring the cost of prescription drugs down?


  1. It sounds like Mr. Miller is doing a fine job - of making people miserable enough to want to change their residence to somewhere near the Mexican or Canadian border.

  2. It is so hard for people to get the medications they need. Some even do not buy it for themselves because they have to pay bills and cant afford it. I wish there was a good solution

  3. I had to switch my prescription coverage this year to one that covers my insulin. Even then I still had to contact the drug company for some assistance. My two insulin drugs would be over $700 a month without insurance. Such a terrible thing to do to people. Sin taxes are one thing. Drugs are not for fun.