Showtime at HHS: Invitation-only meeting to discuss 'the impact of rising pharmaceutical costs'

HHS will hold a webcasted meeting of stakeholders to address pricing issues

Health and Human Services will hold a Pharmaceutical Forum on Nov. 20 in Washington, with an invitation-only list of speakers and audience members to “share information as to how to address this complex problem” of pharma pricing, with a particular emphasis on “specialty medications [that] represent only 1% of all prescriptions but, in 2014, … resulted in over 31% of all drug spending.” The HHS announcement says that the event will be webcast, and will run most of the day. Forum topics:

  • The Balance between Innovation & Smarter Spending
  • Patient Access & the Affordability of Prescription Drugs
  • Purchasing Strategies & Utilization Management Best Practices
  • Value-Based & Outcomes-Based Pharmaceutical Purchasing Programs.

Each of these topics have vast groupings across healthcare (manufacturers, distributors, prescribers payers and governments) that discuss these topics nearly year-round, so what’s the value of such a meeting? The HHS statement says that “We seek your views on how to foster a health care system that leads in innovation, delivers the most affordable, highest quality medicines and results in healthier people;” it could also be the Beltway equivalent of sticking a finger in the wind to see which way it’s blowing, moativated by the steady stream of pricing and distribution conroversies of recent weeks. There are a variety of bills in Congress addressing drug development, notably the 21st Century Cures Act (which has passed the House but has yet to come up in the Senate); in President Obama’s State of the Union address in January, the Precision Medicine initiative took hold; and a variety of campaigners for the presidency—both Republican and Democrat—have floated ideas about drug pricing and availability. Meanwhile, within healthcare circles, the drumbeat of drug pricing being “unsustainable” grows louder.