Healthcare Transformation and the Price of Pharmaceuticals

Panelists discussed the price of pharmaceuticals and controlling the cost of care at the 64th Annual Roy A. Bowers Pharmaceutical Conference: A Measured Approach-Health Care Delivery and Transformation in a Metric Driven World, held by Rutgers University.

Experts opened the 64th Annual Roy A. Bowers Pharmaceutical Conference: A Measured Approach—Health Care Delivery and Transformation in a Metric Driven World, held by the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, by discussing the price of pharmaceuticals and controlling the cost of care.

“We have to remember the patient because the patient is the ultimate utilizer,” Joseph A. Barone, PharmD, FCCP, dean and professor with the Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, said in his opening remarks.

However, he admitted he wasn’t a big fan of calling patients “consumers.” Doing so, he said, diminishes the relationship, but providers need to make sure they are still bringing a patient-centered approach to care.

Brian Godman, PhD, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, discussed the difference between price setting and formularies in the United States and in Europe. For instance, Sweden uses the “Wise List,” which is a recommendation of 200 essential drugs. One of the key principles for a drug being selected to be on the list was cost effectiveness, so no drugs on the list are younger than 2 years and the list only includes the generic names of drugs.

Larry Downs, JD, chief executive officer of the Medical Society of New Jersey, likened the Wise List to the Choosing Wisely series in the United States, which aims to reduce healthcare costs by reducing the use of unnecessary or harmful tests and procedures.

“After hospitalizations, the prescribing issues are where [physicians] can do the best in controlling costs,” Mr Downs said.

He added that physicians in New Jersey and around the country are looking much more closely at partnering with insurers for data that is actionable.

“I think the use of generics will increase as physicians get more data and more incentives to prescribe appropriately,” Mr Downs said.

Dean J. Paranicas, president and CEO of the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey, which represents pharmaceutical companies, felt the European approach and Sweden’s Wise List wouldn’t work in the United States.

He argued that the industry should foster innovation, not undervalue or underestimate it. Even incremental advances are advances and should be nurtured and sustained.

Former Congressman Robert E. Andrews, JD, said healthcare metrics need not only encompass cost, but benefit the patient as well. A costly blood thinner could be worth it if the treatment prevents a stroke due to blood clots.

He also pointed out that the US healthcare system may be imperfect, but reminded the crowd that in the oil-rich countries with the highest per capita in the world, their backup healthcare system is a plane ticket to John F. Kennedy or Newark Liberty.

“I don’t think that we should ever forget that we have that kind of quality,” he concluded.