Generic Drug Price Spikes Demand Congressional Hearing, Pharmacists Say



ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Jan. 8, 2014) — The skyrocketing cost of scores of generic drugs is harming patients and community pharmacies and raises significant questions that deserve to be examined in a congressional committee hearing, the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) said today in a letter to leaders of the U.S. Senate Health Education Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee and the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Pharmacy acquisition prices for many essential generic drugs have risen by as much as 600%, 1,000% or more, according to a survey of more than 1,000 community pharmacists conducted by NCPA. The same survey found that patients are declining their medication due to increased co-pays (or total costs for the uninsured) and that the trend has forced more seniors into Medicare’s dreaded coverage gap (or “donut hole”) where they must pay far higher out-of-pocket costs.

“Over the last six months I have heard from so many of our members across the U.S. who have seen huge upswings in generic drug prices that are hurting patients and pharmacies ability to operate,” NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA wrote in a letter to the panels’ respective leaders, Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

“We respectfully request that you schedule an oversight hearing to examine what factors might have led to these un-manageable spikes in generic drugs and what steps can be taken at the federal level to alleviate the burden that has been placed on our members and the patients they serve,” Hoey added.

The NCPA survey of community pharmacists also found that:

  • 77% of pharmacists reported 26 or more instances over the past six months of a large upswing in a generic drug's acquisition price.
  • 86% of pharmacists said it took the pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) or other third-party payer between two and six months to update its reimbursement rate (but not retroactively).
  • Patients may be referred to other pharmacies because the community pharmacy could not absorb losses of $40, $60, $100 or more per prescription filled, due to inadequate and/or outdated reimbursement rates.
  • 84% of pharmacists said the unsustainable losses per prescription are having a "very significant" impact on their ability to remain in business to continue serving patients.

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