Is this new drug worth the cost? Payers decide using value-based purchasing agreements

Lyfegen Editorial Team

Healthcare payers and insurance companies are under pressure to fight rising drug prices in the U.S. Payers have the difficult task of figuring out if a manufacturer’s proposed wholesale price for a new drug is justified. Value-based purchasing agreements facilitate the data sharing needed to determine a drug’s fair price.


U.S. drug expenditures are among the highest in the world

It’s well-documented that the U.S. spends more on prescription drugs than other high-income countries. After adjusting for rebates and discounts, U.S. drug prices are almost 200% of prices in other comparable countries, according to a 2021 Rand Corporation report.

High drug prices in the U.S. translate to a per capita expenditure almost double what consumers and payers in other developed countries are paying. Peterson-KFF’s Health System Tracker shows that in 2019, U.S. payers and consumers spent a yearly average of $1,126 per capita for prescription medications, with $963 covered by payers and $164 in patient out-of-pocket costs. In other high-income countries, average annual drug expenditures were $552 per capita, with $88 in yearly out-of-pocket costs for patients.

U.S. drug expenditures keep rising

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists reports that in 2021 overall pharmaceutical expenditures in the U.S. grew by 7.7% over the previous year’s costs; and for 2022, they predict another 4-6% increase in drug spending.

According to the healthcare consulting firm IQVIA, a total of 6.3 billion prescriptions were filled in the U.S. in 2020. Around 90% of those prescriptions were filled using lower-priced generic drugs. Lower-priced generic and biosimilar drugs have helped slow the rise of the annual national drug expenditures, however these account for only around 20% of total drug costs.

Increased use of pharmaceuticals (especially generics), drug price hikes, and high-cost new drugs coming to the market are contributing to the rise in overall drug expenditures. In particular, new, brand-name specialty drugs for conditions such as diabetes, cancer, autoimmune, and other rare diseases are bringing up the average of drug prices.

The use of specialty drugs increased from 27% of total U.S. drug spending in 2010 to 53% in 2020, according to IQVIA. They forecast up to 55 new pharmaceutical products per year will be brought to market between 2020 and 2025.

Payers will have to decide whether to cover the cost of these new products and at what price. New-to-market specialty drugs are excellent candidates for value-based purchasing agreements.

Value-based purchasing contracts provide the data that reveal if a drug is worth its price

Payers have the difficult task of figuring out if a manufacturer’s proposed wholesale price for a new drug is justified. They need to protect their bottom line by minimizing the risk of paying for ineffective, over-priced drugs. Private insurance plans, Medicaid, and the Veterans Administration often negotiate prices for new treatments with pharmaceutical companies without real-world data to demonstrate the drug’s clinical and cost-effectiveness compared to other treatments for the same health condition.

If their product is eligible, some pharmaceutical manufacturers conduct fast-track clinical trials for FDA approval using surrogate endpoint measures to show that a new drug is safe and more effective than a placebo. But these trials provide limited data and they aren’t the comprehensive comparative effectiveness review (CER) needed for determining the value and fair price for the drug. Independent research firms, such as the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), conduct CERs that provide insight into pricing for drug categories, but they don’t research every new drug coming onto the market.

Value-based purchasing agreements fill this knowledge gap by collecting the real-world evidence of a new drug’s clinical value. The data sharing among stakeholders that comes with these outcome-based contracts gives a fuller picture of the drug’s impact on patient health outcomes.

Value-based purchasing contracts strengthen stakeholder partnerships

While acknowledging that the future of healthcare is moving from fee-for-service to value-based healthcare, providers and payers have been slow to adopt value-based contracting. Operationalizing these agreements is complex. They consume large amounts of time and financial resources at start-up, not to mention the trust, cooperation, and commitment required from stakeholders.

It can be quite difficult to agree on a drug price that satisfies all stakeholders in terms of evidence-based clinical value and comparative competitor pricing. What and who determines a drug’s value? Value-based purchasing arrangements align the stakeholders’ metrics for measuring value to determine a fair price for a drug. Over time, this new level of transparency and cooperation can foster greater trust between contract partners and help break down the barriers blocking the transition out of fee-for-service to value-based healthcare.

The Lyfegen Platform

Manufacturers, payers, and providers all possess part of the data about a drug’s value in their databases. In the past, automated tools to safely collect, centralize, and analyze stakeholder data were non-existent. Thanks to innovations in artificial intelligence, new software platforms for value-based contracts can facilitate efficient coordination among the stakeholders to achieve a high level of secure data sharing.

Lyfegen’s software platform helps healthcare insurances, pharma and medtech companies implement and scale value-based purchasing contracts with greater efficiency and transparency. The Lyfegen Platform collects real-world data and uses intelligent algorithms to provide valuable insights on drug performance and cost in value-based contracts. 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.


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