NICA Submits Comments to HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices
On Monday, the National Infusion Center Association (NICA) submitted formal comments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar in response to the agency’s request for information on the American Patients First blueprint to lower drug prices and reduce out-of-pocket costs.
“NICA applauds actions the administration has taken to address the rising cost of drugs and patient out- of -pocket costs. We support the concept of several provisions outlined in the American Patients First blueprint and urge the administration to ensure that access to care will not be inadvertently disrupted by subsequent reform measures”, writes Brian Nyquist, MPH, executive director of NICA.
NICA outlined the following principles necessary for responsible reform:
- Address market forces and dynamics that influence increased drug list prices and high out-of-pocket costs
- Minimize the annual per capita economic burden of complex, chronic diseases
- Improve access to care and reduce cost by supporting the expansion of lower cost, non-hospital care settings
Areas addressed throughout the letter included: managing autoimmune diseases with medical benefit drugs, site neutrality for physician-administered drugs, increased pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) transparency, cost-share assistance programs, and reformation of the 340B drug discount program.
Most notably, NICA expressed great concern about shifting biologics and specialty intravenous or injectable medications currently covered under Part B to coverage under Part D because of the likely increase in costs for patients, as well as decreased access to care. NICA implored the agency to reconsider such an impactful reform provision.
“Shifting coverage of drugs from the medical benefit to the pharmacy benefit will increase the cost burden for patients and Medicare. Previous analyses by HHS regarding the impact of transitioning drugs covered under Part B to Part D suggested that such a shift, as outlined in a 2005 report to Congress, ‘would likely increase overall Medicare program spending by increasing spending on Part D by more than the offsetting decrease in spending on Part B.’”
On behalf of office infusion providers and their patients, NICA praises the efforts of HHS to control the rising cost of drugs and out-of-pocket spending for patients and offers its expertise of the in-office infusion delivery channel as a resource for the agency moving forward.