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Changes in Medicaid’s Best Price Rule Likely to Boost Value-Based Purchasing Agreements

Lyfegen Editorial Team



Beginning July 1, 2022, according to a final rule released by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), drug manufacturers will be able to report varying “best price” points (that is, multiple best prices) for a covered drug to the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program, provided they’re pursuing a value-based purchasing (VBP) arrangement that aligns pricing with outcomes-based clinical and economic measures, such as positive clinical benefits, improved quality of life, fewer physician visits, and reduced hospitalizations. Partnering with Lyfegen may be the solution for manufacturers and payers alike, as its platform can put users on the right track towards successful implementation of VBPs.


Since 1990, the statutory Medicaid rebate has ensured that states obtain lower net prices for pharmaceuticals. For brand name drugs, the rebate is 23.1% of Average Manufacturer Price (AMP) or the difference between AMP and “best price,” whichever is greater. Here, best price is defined as the lowest available price to any wholesaler, retailer, or provider, excluding certain government programs, such as the Department of Veteran Affairs program. The AMP is the average price paid to drug manufacturers by wholesalers and retail pharmacies. It is proprietary and therefore not publicly available.

The best price stipulation can, however, hamper manufacturers and payers who wish to experiment with value-based arrangements. Suppose a drug manufacturer offers a payer a 100% money-back guarantee for a treatment it is launching. Then, in case the treatment being sold is ineffective, this would imply the possibility of a Medicaid best price of zero dollars. In turn, this would require that the drug be given away free of charge to every state Medicaid program.

The new rule allows manufacturers to report multiple “best prices” for a single dosage form and strength of a therapeutic, provided the prices are tied to one or more VBPs. Further bolstering the rule is proposed bipartisan legislation – Medicaid VBPs for Patients Act – which, if passed, would codify the best price rule. Importantly, the reporting of multiple best prices under different VBPs does not impact the best price for sales outside of the VBPs.

Drug manufacturers and health insurers have long considered linking reimbursement of certain treatments, particularly cell and gene therapies, to health outcomes. Here, VBPs tie reimbursement to the actual benefits that patients receive. Accordingly, VBPs alleviate the significant risk payers take on when they reimburse the high upfront costs of cell and gene therapies; treatments which still need to demonstrate durability over time. However, drug makers and insurers have been stymied by the Medicaid best price rules. The CMS rule change aims to encourage insurers to negotiate value-based outcome deals with drug makers.

For the sake of illustration, suppose a manufacturer has a $2,000,000 gene therapy to treat a rare disease, and is willing to sign a contract which stipulates that the treatment will have its intended therapeutic effect in 80% of the patients who take it. In the VBP, the manufacturer agrees to provide a payer with an 80% rebate if a patient or subgroup of patients does not respond positively to the therapy.

In the event of treatment failure, as a signatory to the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program subject to the best price requirement, the manufacturer would be forced to extend the 80% discount – the best price of the therapy in this case is $400,000 - to the entire Medicaid program, nationwide, because it represents the best price offered to all relevant U.S. purchasers.

Under the new approach in which multiple best prices can be used, as the manufacturer of a $2,000,000 gene therapy, it can structure a VBP with a payer that promises an 80% rebate in the event a patient or subgroup of patients fails to meet pre-specified clinical outcomes. But, for the drug maker the good news is that the 80% discount will not trigger an 80% best price across all Medicaid programs.

It’s hoped that beginning in July 2022 manufacturers in the U.S. will be more willing to negotiate VBPs with payers, including Medicaid. When the rule goes into effect this summer, Lyfegen will be ready to assist companies establish successful VBPs.



About the Author

Cohen is a health economist with more than 25 years of experience analyzing, publishing, and presenting on drug and diagnostic pricing and reimbursement, as well as healthcare policy reform initiatives. For 21 years, Cohen was an academic at Tufts University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Amsterdam. Currently, and for the past five years, Cohen is an independent healthcare analyst and consultant on a variety of research, teaching, speaking, editing, and writing projects.

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