Category Archives: Health Care Reform

How Will the Affordable Care Act Impact Rx Savings Programs?

Fundamental changes are coming to the U.S. health system when the new health insurance marketplaces or “exchanges” established as part of the Affordable Care Act take effect on January 1.  Tens of millions more Americans are expected to be covered by health insurance – including prescription drug coverage – as a result of this and other reforms.

We are regularly asked how the new health law will impact our business and what it will mean for our prescription savings programs, which helped 562,000 patients save $1.2 billion on nearly 4.6 million free prescriptions in 2012.

But will there be a need for these savings programs if patients have insurance plans that cover prescription medicine costs? If so, how will the programs be different?

We sat down with Jennifer McGovern, who runs AstraZeneca’s prescription savings programs, to get her perspective about what – if any – changes will be coming to the AZ&Me patient assistance programs.

Watch this brief video for highlights of our conversation, and click here for a full transcript.

Former HHS Secretary: Medicare drug benefit is working

Former HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson says the Medicare drug benefit is working for patients.

Former US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson took the time to answer a few questions from PhRMA about the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which was enacted during his time in office.

In short, he says, the program is working for patients.

My early experience is that the prescription drug benefit is working as we thought it would. Seniors are satisfied with the program. For the first time, seniors are getting meaningful prescription drug assistance.

There was concern raised that there were too many choices, and seniors wouldn’t be able to understand those choices. That concern is not playing out. Seniors are getting adequate information, and are able to make choices in their best interests. Just as we thought, acting in their best interests creates a market dynamic that keeps the program cost lower than what we even initially projected.

Later, Thompson discusses whether changes are needed to the program.

You are always going to see policymakers want to make adjustments to the program, but major adjustments could disrupt the market and increase costs. In this fiscal environment, why would you take a program that is working to push down prices and risk decreasing its effectiveness? Rather than change Part D, I would apply the lessons learned to other aspects of the Medicare program.

As Thompson mentioned, here’s growing evidence that access to prescription medicines through Medicare Part D is reducing costs throughout the system and improving health for seniors. For example, American seniors’ increased access to medicines via the Medicare prescription drug program led to reduced spending on post-acute care such as hospitals and nursing homes.

One change being made under the health reform law signed by the president last year closes part of the coverage gap that seniors pay once their prescription drug costs reach a certain level. As part of its support for health care reform legislation, the pharmaceutical industry agreed to cut out-of-pocket costs on brand name medicines by 50 percent for Medicare patients who reach the coverage gap – known as the “donut hole.”

AstraZeneca also provides support to Medicare patients who need help paying for our medicines through our prescription savings programs. Click here to learn more about this program and whether AstraZeneca may be able to help you or your family save on your prescription drug costs.

Brennan: US must keep eye on jobs, innovation

U.S. CapitolAs policymakers in the United States grapple with reducing the deficit, AstraZeneca CEO David Brennan is urging them to remain focused on promoting progress in the biopharmaceutical and other key industries.

“There’s still a lot of room for figuring out how to solve the budget problem in the US,” Brennan said in an interview in Russia with CNBC. “The problem I have with that is that it’s not a discussion focused on innovation and bringing jobs into the US. It’s a discussion focused on budget cuts.”

Brennan said how policymakers approach this important issue will have a significant impact on our business – and how we deliver medicines to patients in the future.

“Policy matters,” he said. “The way policy gets constructed significantly affects the amount we can invest in research and development and how long we get patent protection for our drugs.

“It’s the pressure of pricing balanced against us having to demonstrate value in our products I think we’re being much more careful and selective in what we’re bringing forward because governments and payers are being much more selective about what they’ll pay for.”

Click here to see video of the full interview.

– By Tony Jewell

David Brennan on deficit reduction plan

AstraZeneca CEO David Brennan, appearing this morning on CNBC's Squawk Box, commented on the portions of the White House's deficit reduction plan that would impact our industry:

CNBC: Pricing pressure in terms of healthcare reform, is it worse here? Are you more worried about operations in the United States or is it still better place here to develop drugs? You've already had some of the pricing pressures in Europe from what they've done; things that maybe we’re considering years ago.

Brennan: Pricing pressures in Europe are constant, I think it got a little bit worse in the last 12 or 18 months.

I think we've been optimistic about the U.S. market but up until the speech yesterday I think we probably saw ourselves as net positive. But some of the comments that were made yesterday don't really provide the kind of policy framework for integration there that we’re looking for, so we're just more concerned about it.

I don't know exactly where it's going, but if we put (larger) Medicare rebates in place, price controls, things like that, then this isn't as good a market as it used to be.

As we have noted previously, AstraZeneca believes the federal government must help create an environment that spurs innovation in the life sciences in the United States. This in turn will spur job growth while finding cures and treatments for the world's most deadly and debilitating diseases.

See PhRMA's statement on the issue here.

Health reform: Balancing savings and discovery

FT Blog post pic As policymakers in the United States implement health care reform, AstraZeneca CEO David Brennan urged them to keep a careful eye on balancing the need to contain costs with fostering an environment that promotes medical discovery.

“There is a risk that short run cost savings may prove expensive in the long run,” Brennan said in a speech Wednesday at the FT Global Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology conference in London.

“Increased burdens on the pharmaceutical industry, an overly cautious FDA, or weakened intellectual property regulation could all undermine the United States’ ability to attract health research and investment,” Brennan said. “And if we want to see medical breakthroughs, the United States will need a healthcare system that supports a strong, vibrant and competitive research-based pharmaceutical industry.”

Given that, Brennan said, the pharmaceutical industry must remain engaged with policymakers as health care reform is implemented.

“We need to remain focused on the central goal of getting the right medicines to the right patients in an affordable way,” he said. “That should be true of everyone involved. So, as we start on the hard road of implementation, we must not lose sight of what is in the interests of patients.”

– By Tony Jewell

What’s Next for Healthcare Reform?

By Earl Whipple

This week President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordability Act, with its final changes, into law.

AstraZeneca has been actively led in the health care debate by our CEO David Brennan, who has served as Chairman of The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) this past year.

Early
on in the debate we publicly shared our health care reform principles
and since then we’ve worked with other innovation-based biopharma
companies to demonstrate our commitment to health care reform.

The existing barriers to quality health care coverage and access to medicines are not acceptable. No doubt, considerable challenges remain within health care reform but the new law is an important step forward for patients and scientific and medical innovation. By engaging with the White House and members of Congress, we were able to help expand patient health care coverage, access to life-saving medicines, ensure that patient safety is maintained or enhanced, while continuing to foster and reward innovation.

As I said in a post back in early November, we believe there is universal acceptance of the need for reform, but fractious debate on how to achieve it. Meaningful reform requires a move from ideology and politics to ideas and cooperative solutions.  I remember some of the core elements in the 2010 legislation first appearing back in 1993 when I was a Legislative Director on Capitol Hill.  They were contained in legislation drafted an an alternative to the Clintoncare health reform proposal.  Former Senator Dave Durenberger, in a Kaiser Health News interview discussed similarities between the 2010 legislation and the Republican proposals in 1993.

All the key stakeholders in the US health care system must work together to arrive at a public/private solution “to get the right kind of healthcare reform the American people deserve – and need,” as David Brennan said.

 

We look forward to future health care approaches that enhance health outcomes, prevent chronic disease, reduce health disparities and protects and rewards innovation.  Please share your views with us on health care reform, and how we got here.

The Health Care Reform America Needs: Our View for a Healthier Nation

By Earl Whipple

The U.S. leads the world in medical innovation with high standards of care, skilled physicians, the availability of meaningful medicines, and state-of-the-art technology. But there’s no question the US health care system needs considerable improvement.

  • More than 47 million Americans do not have health insurance
  • 130 million Americans suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease – and many are worried about how they are going to pay for treatment. 75 cents of every dollar spent on health care in this country is related to chronic disease treatment.

Improving health-care is one of the most important challenges that our nation faces.

75 cents of every dollar spent on health care in this country is related to chronic disease treatments like diabetes, heart disease and obesity.  Chronic diseases are among the most common and costly health problems, they are also among the most preventable. Chronic diseases also disproportionately affect low-income patients.

At the same time, our health care system suffers from high administrative costs, major coverage gaps, technological dislocations, and areas of low health outcomes.

There is universal acceptance of the need for reform, but fractious debate on how to achieve it. Meaningful reform will require a move from ideology and politics to ideas and cooperative solutions.

At AstraZeneca, we believe that every American should have affordable health insurance and prescription drug coverage. Meaningful reform requires a smarter, leaner, and more agile market-based system that maximizes patient choices while minimizing system costs. We must be able to access the latest and best therapies, reward innovation regardless of where it occurs, and enhance the quality, efficiency, and delivery of care. To make this future a reality, health care reform should:

  • Promote market competition that leads to improved health outcomes. Innovation no longer happens in one company’s lab – it is happening through constant interaction between scientists in pharma, biotech, academia and government.
  • Ensure that patient safety is No. 1. We must ensure the benefits of medicines outweigh their risks, communicating benefit/risk information, and being transparent in clinical trials. We recognize the critical role the FDA plays in safeguarding the public’s health, and we support a strong, well-funded, independent FDA.
  • Expand coverage for the uninsured. Access to quality care must be a primary focus of the healthcare reform debate along with a focus on outcomes that reduce healthcare disparities. Approximately 47 million people in the U.S. do not have health care coverage, and the consequences of this gap are profound AstraZeneca employees are very proud that our Patient Assistance Program has been helping people afford their medications since 1978.. In the last five years, it has resulted in savings of more than $3 billion to patients in need.  Of the 47 million Americans without health insurance, 33 million could find assistance through our program.
  • Foster innovation and protect intellectual property. Discovering new differentiated medicines is expensive with high rates of failure occurring in the face of potential success—in fact, it takes up to 15 years and approximately $1 billion to bring a drug from discovery to a patient’s medicine cabinet. Without IP protection, pharmaceutical companies would be unable to recover the enormous investments into R&D to research the next generation of new medicines. Protecting IP also ensures a continued supply of generic drugs.

Tell us where you stand on health care reform. What are the system’s biggest strengths and weaknesses? What can the health care industry do to make medicines more affordable while still raising funds to invest in R&D? Do you agree that patient choice is at the center of reform?