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Leveraging technology could improve pricing transparency for consumers, physicians and lawmakers.
In February, pharma CEOs were summoned to appear before the U.S. Senate to testify about the steep rise in drug prices. Now, it’s the pharmacy benefit managers’ (PBMs) turn. Both big pharma and PBMs are a big reason for the rise of drug prices today, and it is simply unacceptable. Will forcing PBMs to testify on Capitol Hill help us find a solution to lowering drug prices? And how can we as healthcare executives and physicians leverage technology to influence policy change?
Welcome to The Clinical Divide. I’m Dr. Kevin Campbell. I’m a Duke-trained cardiologist and CEO of the health data startup PaceMate. Every week, this Inside Digital Health™ video series examines healthcare technology and medicine’s top news. I bring you the views that help physicians and healthcare executives bridge the clinical divide.
Last week, five of the nation’s largest PBMs — CVS Health, Cigna, Prime Therapeutics, Humana and Optum — all went to Capitol Hill and denied that the industry’s backdoor deals with drug makers were responsible for the increasing price of drugs. Instead, the companies blamed big pharma and its pursuit of profits. The companies blamed the drug industry for the rising costs of brand-name drugs. Yet when big pharma testified in February, executives there blamed the middlemen — the PBMs — for pocketing discounts instead of passing them on to patients. In actuality, I believe the PBMs are the Sopranos of the drug industry — making money on all sides of the deal and carefully driving up prices in order to line their own pockets.
The testimonies before Congress have yielded little more than a, “he said, she said” controversy. Ultimately, Congress is allowing both groups to play a dangerous blame game that negatively impacts our patients.
Every part of the pharmaceutical industry has a role to play in driving down drug prices, and it is time that lawmakers hold all of them accountable.
In order to do this, we must leverage technology. This will improve transparency for consumers, physicians and lawmakers. To be honest, in the digital era, technology should eliminate the role of PBMs in the first place. What need do we have for “middlemen” in the age of instant communication and transparency of pricing?
As CEOs and physicians, we must also utilize social media platforms and put big pharma and PBMs on notice. The price hikes and putting profits ahead of patients is no longer going to be tolerated. We must get the attention of policymakers and government officials. We must use our voices and not back down. We must be heard — we have the power to influence regulators.
Our patients deserve better, and now it is on us to use our voices and our positions to influence positive change for all patients.
Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Clinical Divide. Until next week, I’m Dr. Kevin Campbell, for Inside Digital Health™.
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