Washington, DC—While the nation’s largest pharmacy group endorsed federal efforts to lower drug prices, it expressed concerns about the emphasis on drug importation.

The plan seeks to increase support for drug price negotiation with manufacturers and stop unreasonable price increases; promote competition throughout the prescription drug industry by strengthening supply chains, promoting biosimilars and generics, and increasing transparency; and pushing for more scientific innovations by using market incentives to promote discovery of valuable and accessible new treatments, not game the market, according to Xavier Becerra, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).

To those ends, the White House is seeking the following:
• Drug price negotiation in Medicare Parts B and D, and making the negotiated prices available to the Affordable Care Act beneficiaries, commercial plans, and employers
• Medicare Part D reform, including capping catastrophic spending to protect beneficiaries from unaffordable out-of-pocket costs
• Legislation to slow price increases on existing drugs, while speeding up the entry of biosimilar and generic drugs, including shortening the period of exclusivity and policies in Medicare Part B to increase the prescribing of biosimilars by clinicians
• Prohibiting “pay-for-delay” agreements and other anticompetitive practices by drug manufacturers
• Investing in research to foster innovation, including President Joe Biden’s proposal to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health.

That promoted a generally positive response from the American Pharmacists Association (APhA). “APhA thanks HHS for several of the recommendations contained in today’s report on lowering drug prices,” the APhA said in a statement. “We are pleased to see that Secretary Becerra heard APhA’s recommendation to require pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) operate in a more transparent manner. PBMs currently do business behind a curtain, and pharmacy knows firsthand how that secrecy allows them to line their pockets at the expense of patients, pharmacies, and the health care system. We shared with Secretary Becerra many examples of PBMs engaging in business practices that generate revenue for themselves without passing most of these savings along to patients at the pharmacy counter.”

“This is a positive step forward for pharmacies, pharmacists, and the patients they serve. We applaud Secretary Becerra for taking the next steps to implement these much-needed actions to begin to shine the light on PBMs’ deceptive and anticompetitive business practices. We will continue to work with the administration as we redouble our efforts to change the status quo of PBM dominance in the marketplace that puts pharmacies out of business, inflates the prices of vital medicines, and creates ‘pharmacy deserts’ in minority and underserved communities. APhA is committed to the national effort to lower prescription drug prices, reduce administrative waste, and improve health equity,” it added.

The group said it was pleased to see Becerra’s encouragement of legislation to speed the entry of interchangeable biosimilars and generic drugs into the marketplace and support for the 340B Drug Pricing Program, which offers affordable medications that can be dispensed through contract agreements with commercial pharmacies to eligible patients.

APhA also expressed gratitude that pharmacists were given “a seat at the table and reaffirm our willingness to advise and support the federal government as it pursues much-needed drug-price solutions.”

On the other hand, the statement expressed disappointment at the encouragement of drug importation. “APhA maintains that drug importation threatens patient safety and drug supply chain integrity without effectively reducing prices, and we will continue to work with Secretary Becerra and others at HHS to provide education about the pitfalls of its implementation,” it noted.

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