A big win for value-based care: Medicare can now negotiate some drug prices
In a year marked by landmark legislative changes in support of value-based drug pricing, Medicare has recently received authorization to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers under the health provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. Proponents of the law are hoping value-based pricing negotiations and inflation-based rate hike rebates for the country’s largest public healthcare payers will lower national drug costs and save U.S. taxpayers hundreds of billions over the next decade. Of course, pharmaceutical companies disagree.
In 2022, the pharmaceutical industry spent $187 million in lobbying funds fighting–unsuccessfully–to stop passage of a law that would grant Medicare negotiating authority for drug prices. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 brought to life a legislative fix patient advocates, physician groups, and Democratic legislators have been trying to enact for decades as a tool to help lower prescription drug costs.
When the Medicare Part D retail prescription drug program was created in 2003, Republican legislators added the “noninterference clause” to the law to prevent Medicare from negotiating drug prices. Private health plans run the Medicare Part D drug program, but they set formularies and conduct drug price negotiations without Medicare’s input. The IRA establishes Medicare’s voice in drug price negotiations with drug manufacturers under the Drug Price Negotiation Program set to begin in 2023.
Medicare will be authorized to negotiate directly with manufacturers to find Maximum Fair Prices (MFPs) for a limited number of drugs that have no generic or biosimilar competition. The law also limits price increases year-over-year for Medicare Part D and Part B units sold (not for commercial units sold). Outside of a few product exceptions, drug makers who increase their prices more than the rate of inflation will have to pay rebates to Medicare.
Which drug prices can Medicare negotiate?
According to the new law, each year the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will select from a list of qualified single-source drugs with the highest total Medicare spending. The list of negotiation-eligible drugs will consist of the 50 costliest drugs from Medicare’s Part D program and (after 2028) the 50 costliest drugs from Medicare Part B (for drugs physician-administered on an outpatient basis).
A timeline for the changes enacted by the new legislation gives pharmaceutical manufacturers and health insurers time to adjust. The first step of the Drug Price Negotiation Program gives Medicare the authority to negotiate the 10 most expensive Part D drugs, with the negotiated price starting in 2026. The program expands to 15 eligible Part D drugs by 2027. Beginning in 2028, some Part B drugs may also be included in the list of 15 products that can be negotiated. From 2029 forward, Medicare can negotiate pricing for up to 20 Part D and Part B drugs. In total, Medicare will be able to negotiate prices on up to 60 eligible drugs by 2029.
The drugs for price negotiations under the IRA must meet certain standards, including the following:
• The drug may not have a generic substitute.
• For small-molecule drugs, it must be at least 7 years since FDA approval was granted.
• For biologics, it must be at least 11 years since FDA approval was granted.
• New drug formulations or treatments for rare diseases are excluded.
• Treatments extracted or developed from human blood or plasma are not eligible for price negotiations.
• A drug is excluded if Medicare’s total expenditures for the drug are no more than 1% of total Part D expenditures.
• Most drugs developed by small biotechnology companies are excluded.
Not surprisingly, pharmaceutical companies see the passage of the IRA as an unfavorable development and view the Medicare negotiation process as price setting, not negotiations. The HHS and manufacturers are required to negotiate and agree on MFPs for negotiation-eligible drugs; negotiations are not optional. The drug manufacturer has 30 days to accept or counter the price offer Medicare makes. If a manufacturer refuses to cooperate with HHS or fails to negotiate in good faith, HHS can impose civil monetary penalties and an excise tax for non-compliance. It’s likely the pharma industry will challenge the law in court.
What analysts predict about industry impact and cost savings
In July 2022, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published the latest estimate of the budgetary effects of the health provisions in the IRA. The CBO expects Medicare’s ability to negotiate drug prices will save $102 billion in public sector healthcare costs over 10 years. During the same period, the CBO estimates an additional $62 billion in savings will result from the cap on drug price hikes at the rate of inflation.
The CBO expects manufacturers will increase launch prices for their new products to counteract the IRA’s inflation-rebate provision which slows the growth of prices over time. The analysts predict this will lead to an increase in Medicaid spending because Medicaid’s rebate program, triggered by the higher launch prices, would not fully offset the price increases. The CBO says Medicare Part B may also be affected by higher launch prices since that program uses the market’s average sales price of a drug to determine its reimbursement rate.
Analysts from Moody’s Investors Service expect there will be both price reductions for some drugs and limited price growth for other drugs. Moody’s analysts warn manufacturers that show high Medicare spending–due to their high prices, not patient consumption–will feel the impact of these regulatory changes the most.
Using the data from value-based drug purchasing arrangements
Proponents of Medicare’s authorization to negotiate drug prices believe the prescription drug provisions in the IRA are a suitable compromise that allows drug manufacturers to realize a reasonable profit while increasing the health benefits, accessibility, and affordability of prescription drugs for Medicare patients. Value-based purchasing arrangements will be an important tool at the core of this compromise.
Part of the criteria the HHS Secretary will consider when negotiating an MFP is the drug’s value to health outcomes and its cost-effectiveness compared with alternative treatments. Industry experts recognize that one of the best ways to gather insights into a drug’s performance is from the data collected in the implementation of value-based drug agreements. The data can either provide real-world evidence of a drug’s cost-effectiveness and benefit to patient health outcomes or reinforce the terms of a rebate for a drug’s underperformance.
Since negotiation-eligible drugs include those approved by the FDA at least 7 years ago, performance data may already be available from past value-based drug agreements for the first round of Medicare price negotiations. Manufacturers can prepare for future negotiations with Medicare by seeking value-based purchasing arrangements for their newer products as soon as possible after FDA approval.
The Lyfegen solution
Lyfegen, an independent global software analytics company, offers a contracting platform solution that helps health insurances, pharma, medtech, and hospitals implement value-based payment models with efficiency and transparency. Lyfegen’s Platform performs real-time, end-to-end, data collection and analysis through intelligent algorithms that can operationalize any value-based pharmaceutical purchasing arrangement and provide deep insights into a drug’s performance.
By enabling the shift away from volume-based and fee-for-service healthcare to value-based healthcare, Lyfegen increases access to healthcare treatments and their affordability.
To learn more about our services and the Lyfegen Platform, book a demo.