Michigan Association of Health Plans

Doctors Need To Realize That Fear Of Sticker Shock Keeps Patients From Filling Prescriptions, Experts Say

Up to 30 percent of prescriptions don’t get filled because patients don’t know if they’ll be able to afford the drug. When prescribing medication, doctors should take that into consideration, experts say. “The best drug in the world isn’t going to be effective if the patient doesn’t take it,” said Dana Goldman, a health economist. In other pharmaceutical news: Medicare’s duplicate payments, concerns about anti-depressants, high hep C drug prices, blood pressure medication and more.

The Associated Press: Doctors Don’t Always Know What Patients Will Owe For MedsIt’s the No. 1 reason patients don’t fill their prescriptions: sticker shock. While the price of almost any good or service can be found online, most Americans don’t know what they’ll owe for a prescription medication until they get it. Unexpected costs contribute to the estimated 20 to 30 percent of prescriptions that are never filled, which can lead to health problems from untreated medical conditions. (Perrone, 8/28)

Stat: Medicare Paid Millions For Drugs Already Covered By Hospice BenefitsDespite a previous warning, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services failed to take steps to ensure the Medicare Part D program does not also pay for medicines that should be covered under the Medicare Part A hospice benefit, resulting in an estimated $161 million in duplicate payments  in 2016, according to a new federal government analysis. Specifically, Medicare, Part D paid $422.7 million for 6.7 million prescriptions for beneficiaries who received hospice care. (Silverman, 8/28)

Modern Healthcare: CMS Paying Twice For The Same Hospice Drugs, Watchdog SaysThe figure stemmed from the amount Part D paid for drugs that hospice organizations should have paid for under Part A, according to the new report. It’s likely hospices should have paid for much of the remaining $262 million of the $423 million audited total drug costs, even though hospices told OIG they should not be responsible for that sum. The report recommended that the CMS ensure hospices provide drugs covered under the hospice benefit by working with them directly. OIG also suggests that the CMS create and implement a strategy to ensure it doesn’t double pay in the future. (Brady, 8/28)

The Wall Street Journal: New Concerns Emerge About Long-Term Antidepressant UseHow long is too long to be on antidepressants? More Americans are taking antidepressant medications like Prozac and Zoloft for extended periods of time: One-quarter of people on the drugs have used them for a decade or more, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. But even the longest rigorous studies of antidepressants’ safety and efficacy have followed patients for only a couple of years. (Petersen, 8/28)

Bloomberg: Hepatitis C Drugs Whose Prices Drew Criticism Get FDA Warning Drugs that treat hepatitis C, whose high prices have previously sparked outrage, can in rare instances cause liver failure and other complications, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said. The FDA said it had received reports that drugs made by Gilead Sciences Inc., AbbVie Inc. and Merck & Co. can in some cases lead to worsening liver function in patients who already had moderate or severe liver damage, according to a statement Wednesday. The agency said the drugs remain safe for patients with mild liver disease. (Spalding and Edney, 8/28)

The Associated Press: US Agency Sees Low Risk In Contaminated Blood Pressure DrugsU.S. health officials on Wednesday tried to reassure patients that they face very low risks from ongoing contamination problems with widely prescribed blood pressure drugs. Drugmakers have issued more than 50 recalls since last July linked to low levels of a probable cancer-causing chemical found in generic drugs taken by millions of Americans. The contamination underscores the Food and Drug Administration’s struggle to police an industry that increasingly relies on overseas manufacturing plants in China and India. (8/28)

Stat: Vertex Sinks On Reports Of Deaths Of Patients Taking Cystic Fibrosis DrugThirty patients have died after taking a Vertex (VRTX) Pharmaceuticals treatment for cystic fibrosis, according to a government database, news that sent the company’s share price down as much as 4% on Wednesday morning. The deaths, reported to the Food and Drug Administration’s database of side effects, relate to patients who took Symdeko, a Vertex medicine approved last year. Reports to the database are commonly submitted by health care professionals and often contain incomplete information about how patients died and what other medicines they were taking. (Garde, 8/28)

This article appeared in Kaiser Health News. Read the full story here.