Trending News Today: Drug Price Sticker Shock in Target-CVS Pharmacy Transition

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Although patients are acquiring better access to high-cost specialty drugs in marketplace plans this year, there is still a significant amount of patients being hit with the highest out-of-pocket costs, reported Kaiser Health News. During the study, researchers evaluated how silver level plans handled 20 classes of medications that treat diseases such as HIV, hepatitis C, cancer, and bipolar disorder. The results of the study found that 5 classes of drugs for cancer, HIV, and multiple sclerosis had fewer plans in 2016 that placed all drugs in the top specialty tier. The numbers have been decreasing, as 57% of cancer drugs previously placed on the top specialty tier dropped to 50% in 2016, as HIV drugs dropped from 14% in 2015 to 10% in 2016. However, more work still needs to be done to make these medications available at an affordable price. “We can celebrate this,” said Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of the AIDS Institute. “(But) our goal is zero, there should be no plans that place all the HIV drugs in a class in the top tier and charge high coinsurance.”

CVS Health took over operations of more than 1600 Targets pharmacies in February, with the goal to provide accessible, supportive, and personalized health care — but the pharmaceutical giant did not take cost into consideration, a recent article suggests. Helena Foulkes, president of CVS pharmacy stated this changeover as being an important milestone in prescription medicine, however the significant rise in patients’ medication cost has caused for many complaints, the Los Angeles Times reported. “This increase was caused by changes made by GoodRX, not by CVS Health,” said CVS spokesman, Mike DeAngelis. “Discount card programs are administered by third-party networks and these networks establish the discounted price, not the pharmacy. In addition, drug prices under discount card programs can fluctuate regularly and vary from network to network." However, GoodRX said that the price differences were the nature of pharmacy pricing, stating “We don't control the prices of drugs,” said Doug Hirsch, co-chief executive of GoodRX in Santa Monica. “CVS has its own relationships with suppliers.”

The FDA further questioned the efficacy of eteplirsen for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, resulting in Sarepta Therapeutics Inc’s share price being nearly cut in half Thursday. Duchenne muscular dystrophy affects about 1 in every 3500 boys worldwide and patients frequently die by their 30s, reported The Wall Street Journal. At this time there is no effective treatments on the market and Sarepta has been seeking approval to sell eteplirsen as a treatment for this disease.