Dr Tricia Neuman Discusses Drug Pricing and Transparency

Tricia Neuman, ScD, director of the Kaiser Family Foundation's Program on Medicare Policy and the Project on Medicare's Future, discussed patient access to expensive treatments and the barriers to improving transparency.

Tricia Neuman, ScD, director of the Kaiser Family Foundation's Program on Medicare Policy and the Project on Medicare's Future, discussed patient access to expensive treatments and the barriers to improving transparency.

Transcript (modified)

There are lawsuits coming out because patients cannot get access to hepatitis C drugs because of the cost. What policies can be implemented to help patients get access to life-saving, but expensive drugs?

Well, that’s a real dilemma. Making sure people have access to life-saving drugs is really what this debate is all about, or at least a large part of what this debate is all about. Price is a factor.

When you look at what states are dealing with, what plans are dealing with, what employers are dealing with, if the price doesn’t come down, the only thing they feel they can do is limit access to the drug. And this means triaging—making sure that people who are most likely to benefit get access to the drugs first. But unless price comes down, I think we will continue to see the people who hope to benefit and who want to benefit from these high-priced drugs facing cost-based barriers to coverage.

What can be done to improve transparency into the process of how drugs are priced?

There’s so much interest right now in transparency and there are a number of states that have initiatives that would, in some ways, simply require companies to provide more information about the development of the drugs, the cost of the drugs, marketing, etc. But even transparency proposals are considered highly controversial, and the pharmaceutical industry has been lobbying pretty aggressively against them for various reasons.

So while there is interest in transparency and while it may seem fairly benign, transparency laws have had a hard time making it through the process.