“Drug corporations are ripping people off, and anyone who wants to compete with them deserves credit.” Ben Wakana, Patients for Affordable Drugs
Jan. 22, 2020
Los Angeles Times – A group of leading U.S. health insurers, frustrated by the high cost of prescription drugs, plan to start manufacturing versions of popular generic medications, hoping the competition with pharmaceutical companies will bring down costs.
The move — the latest salvo in the escalating battle to control drug prices — highlights the failure of the Trump administration and Congress to deliver relief for millions of Americans struggling to afford their medications.
The announcement also comes as the state of California is exploring its own drug manufacturing plan.
Neither effort would affect the high price of branded pharmaceuticals, which is the largest driver of U.S. drug spending.
But the move could pressure drugmakers to rein in prices, particularly manufacturers that have dramatically hiked prices on products that have been on the market for years, even decades.
Leading the new effort is a consortium of 18 independent and locally owned Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans, including Oakland-based Blue Shield of California, which is helping to spearhead the $55-million effort.
“Our core challenge is making our product affordable, and one of the biggest barriers to that is getting pharmaceuticals to be affordable,” said Blue Shield of California Chief Executive Paul Markovich. “We don’t see the status quo getting us there.”
The Blue plans have not disclosed which drugs they will manufacture. But officials said the list would include generic medications widely used by patients with common chronic illnesses such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and some mental health conditions.
The insurers — which cover about 40 million people — hope to make the first lower-priced drugs available to patients by early 2022.
They are working with Civica Rx, a Utah-based nonprofit.
It was founded two years ago with a group of U.S. hospital systems to manufacture lower-cost medications that were frequently subject to shortages or exorbitant pricing.
Civica already has 18 medications in production, according to the company.
That partnership may bring real relief to some Americans, said Ben Wakana, executive director of Patients for Affordable Drugs, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization … Read more.
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