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Value-based pricing vs best price? Medicaid's best price problem

Medicaid’s launched its multiple best price program in July 2022 to address a major regulatory barrier to value-based drug pricing arrangements. Policy makers hope with this potential contracting risk and liability gone, manufacturers and healthcare payers will increase their participation in value-based drug pricing agreements.


In 1990, the Medicaid Prescription Drug Rebate Program (MDRP) was created to help slow the expenditures of outpatient prescription drugs to Medicaid patients. Under the MDRP, drug manufacturers who want their drugs covered by state-run Medicaid programs must sign a National Drug Rebate Agreement (NDRA) with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The NDRA requires participating manufacturers to reveal the lowest available price of their products and pay rebates on their products. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), there are around 780 drug manufacturers with NDRAs currently in effect.

The rebates of the Medicaid Best Price Policy

Under the MDRP, manufacturers must inform CMS of the “best price” available for its products. Excluding the price negotiated with some government programs, manufacturers are required to report the lowest price it offers to any drug wholesaler, retail outlet, or healthcare provider. This best price is then used to calculate rebates. Manufacturers pay rebates quarterly to states for the drugs covered under state Medicaid programs.

The rebate for most brand name drugs (excluding certain clotting drugs and pediatric drugs) is 23.1% of the average manufacturer price (AMP) paid by wholesalers and retail pharmacies. If the difference between the AMP and the best price on the market is more than the AMP, then this percentage would become the rebate. The rebate amount for generic drugs does not include a best price provision and stands at 13%.

Outcome-based drug pricing can affect rebates

Despite the industry-wide push from stakeholders and policy makers towards value-based drug pricing arrangements, manufacturers have been wary of signing on to these agreements. They argue these outcomes-based pricing agreements could have unintended consequences that affect the AMP and best price. This, in turn, can skew the calculations for a manufacturer’s rebate liability.

In value-based drug pricing, a drug’s purchase price is linked to the effectiveness of the drug; if the drug underperforms, the manufacturer must pay a rebate, or other form of reimbursement, to the purchaser. Depending on the terms of the value-based pricing arrangement, this could be a substantial reimbursement to a payer for poor patient outcomes. The reduced price after the rebate–even if it’s paid on behalf of only one patient’s poor outcome–could become the new, lower best price.

The new Multiple Best Price policy

Before the multiple best price policy went into effect, manufacturers feared that, in theory, if the terms of a pricing agreement resulted in a 100% reimbursement to a payer for a drug proven to be ineffective, the manufacturer could find themselves in a situation where they had to give away their drug for free to every state Medicaid program.

In response to this interpretation of the best price policy–which became a regulatory barrier to value-based drug pricing arrangements–CMS revised the best price policy with the Final Rule. Under the Final Rule, as of July 2022, manufacturers can now report multiple best prices: the single best price for traditional sales and the prices negotiated under value-based pricing arrangements.

This option to report multiple best prices to CMS is only available for manufacturers who offer states the same terms negotiated in the value-based drug pricing arrangements with commercial insurances. State Medicaid programs can choose to take part in the value-based arrangements or continue to make purchases using the traditional best price.

Critique of the Multiple Best Price policy

Although CMS’ goal with the multiple best price policy was to reduce a significant regulatory barrier, this change still draws critics. And CMS has acknowledged that there will be implementation challenges. Here are some examples of criticisms of the new multiple best price policy.

• Critics find the Final Rule’s updated definition of a value-based drug pricing agreement to be too narrow or too broad. Before the Final Rule went into effect, organizations such as the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs (CAPD) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) were concerned the CMS definition of value-based contracting is too narrow and will exclude some value-based pricing arrangements that are already in effect or in negotiations.

By contrast, AARP worried there is a lack of clarity on the definition of value in the Final Rule that could lead to the designation of almost any drug purchasing agreement as a value-based agreement and open the door to fewer rebates for Medicaid programs and more revenue for manufacturers. Time will tell which is the real problem.

• There may not be a non-value-based price for a drug. If a manufacturer is not offering its product outside of a value-based pricing arrangement, there may not be a single, traditional best price to report. When there are no non-value-based sales to look at, CMS advises manufacturers to use reasonable assumptions to set a non-value-based price. Critics, of course, question the loose guidance of a “reasonable assumption” and see this as an opportunity for manufacturers to game the system.

Some stakeholders are also concerned manufacturers will shift most traditional sales contracts to value-based pricing arrangements with the goal of eliminating less profitable, non-value-based best prices. AARP and National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD) have warned that the new rule could undermine the MDRP best price policy that has been so successful in reducing Medicaid drug expenditures.

• There may be technological and operational barriers for State Medicaid programs who want to take part in value-based drug pricing agreements. Like NAMD and AARP, the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) worries manufacturers could be working to erode the MDRP’s best price policy by providing better rebates to commercial insurance companies under value-based pricing arrangements.

Manufacturers and CMS know that some state Medicaid programs will not have the infrastructure needed to implement value-based pricing agreements with more favorable terms. In its Technical Guidance for using multiple best prices, CMS makes suggestions for creating alternative, innovative agreements when intensive data collection and analysis are not feasible.

The Lyfegen Solution

A lack of resources and staff prevents some state Medicaid programs from operationalizing value-based drug pricing arrangements. Lyfgen assesses an organization’s current data gathering capacity, then offers customized solutions using its contracting software platform to support the execution of value-based drug pricing arrangements.

Lyfegen’s Platform helps healthcare insurances, pharma, and medtech companies implement and scale value-based drug pricing contracts with greater efficiency and transparency. By collecting real-world data and using intelligent algorithms, the Lyfegen solution can provide valuable insights into drug performance and cost in value-based contracts.

Lyfegen helps increase affordability and access to healthcare treatments by enabling the shift away from volume-based and fee-for-service healthcare to value-based healthcare.

Contact us to learn more about Lyfegen’s software solutions and to book a demo.


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The Health and Social Consortium of Catalonia to Develop New Value-Based Purchasing Models Incorporating New Tools for Negotiation with the Pharmaceutical Industry


The Health and Social Consortium of Catalonia to Develop New Value-Based Purchasing Models Incorporating New Tools for Negotiation with the Pharmaceutical Industry

Barcelona, April 9, 2024
The Consortium of Health and Social Services of Catalonia has begun to work on value-based drug purchasing models by incorporating new tools for information management and negotiation with the pharmaceutical industry. This is an innovative project in collaboration with the health technology brand Lyfegen, which has developed the largest platform for managing public agreements in the world and a drug contracting simulator that allows for better deals by maximizing value in the purchasing process.

The goal of this innovative initiative is to increase the processes of value-based drug procurement, allowing CSC-affiliated health centers to focus on the evaluation of the clinical, economic, and social benefits that the drug can provide in relation to its cost.

For the design of these new procurement models, the "Lyfegen Agreements Library" database and the “Lyfegen Drug Contracting Simulator” were used, and work was done on the automation of administrative tasks and on improving interoperability among hospitals and health administrations. These tools allow the CSC to model various agreements and improve the drug management process in the central contracting office. The Health and Social Consortium of Catalonia thus becomes the first organization in Spain to incorporate these tools.

"From the Consortium, we are convinced that access to innovation and the sustainability of the health system relies on reaching innovative management agreements with pharmaceutical laboratories," says Josep Maria Guiu, director of the Pharmacy and Medication Area of the CSC. "The alliance with Lyfegen gives us a tool to work in this direction and to advance in the establishment of satisfactory agreements that facilitate access to innovation and contribute to the sustainability of the health system."

Girisha Fernando, CEO of Lyfegen, comments that "We are proud to help the Consortium lead access to innovation to improve patient care in Catalonia." "By using our advanced solutions, more than 100 health organizations throughout the region can research, model, and efficiently manage agreements, as well as value-based drug procurement," he adds.

“This allows professionals to really focus on what matters most: patient care.”

The collaboration with Lyfegen reflects the commitment of the Health and Social Consortium of Catalonia to value-based drug procurement and to access to pharmacological innovation, as well as the will to continue working for the implementation of solutions that ensure equity and sustainability of the health system.

The total contracting volume of the CSC, which acts as the purchasing center for the subsidized health sector of Catalonia, was 1.497 billion euros in 2023. Of this amount, 90% corresponded to medicines and 10% to sanitary products.

In recent years, the Consortium of Health and Social Services of Catalonia has incorporated social value aspects into the purchasing processes. For example, it has committed to ensuring that 100% of its drug and sanitary product tenders incorporate environmental clauses by 2024.

About Lyfegen

Lyfegen is an independent provider of rebate management software designed for the healthcare industry. Lyfegen solutions are used by health insurances, governments, hospital payers, and pharmaceutical companies around the globe to dramatically reduce the administrative burden of managing complex drug pricing agreements and to optimize rebates and get better value from those agreements. Lyfegen maintains the world’s largest digital repository of innovative drug pricing models and public agreements and offers access to a robust drug pricing simulator designed to dynamically simulate complex drug pricing scenarios to understand full financial impact. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, the company was founded in 2018 and has a market presence in Europe, North America, and the Middle East. Learn more at


The Consortium of Health and Social of Catalonia (CSC) is a public entity with a local and associative basis, founded in 1983, which has its origin in the municipal movement. The CSC, a reference to the sector and with a clear vocation for service, has as a mission: to promote excellent and sustainable health and social models to improve the quality of life of the people, offering services of high added value to its partners. CSC wants to be the main reference for knowledge and capacity for cooperation, influence and anticipation in the face of the new challenges of the health and social system. All CSC associates are public or private non-profit bodies. For more information, please visit

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Do drug companies really want more competition? Value-based purchasing puts them to the test


Do drug companies really want more competition? Value-based purchasing puts them to the test

Pharma says they want greater competition within the industry and more incentives for pharmaceutical innovation; value-based purchasing agreements can provide both.

Value-based purchasing arrangements first appeared in the European markets in the 1990s, while U.S. healthcare markets did little with value-based contracts for pharmaceuticals until the 2000s. The high cost of new drugs coming to market, large annual increases in existing drug prices, and political pressure from lawmakers on payers to address the high cost of healthcare have encouraged stakeholders to make greater use of value-based purchasing arrangements.

It’s easy to understand the appeal of value-based purchasing agreements for private and public payers. Value-based purchasing is one way both U.S. and European payers are using to reduce overall healthcare spending.

For drug companies, value-based purchasing puts an end to their unencumbered pricing strategy. But pharmaceutical manufacturers realize value-based purchasing agreements are the best way, and maybe the only way, to get their new, higher-priced products covered by payers and into the treatment plans of patients.

How do pharmaceutical companies determine their drug prices?

Pharmaceutical companies are in business to generate as much revenue as possible without jeopardizing patients’ access to their treatments. In the U.S., where drug pricing is unregulated, pharmaceutical manufacturers can charge any price they want for their products. In the EU, member states use regulations such as direct control over pricing, referencing the average price of a drug among all EU members to set a national price, or regulating the drug manufacturers’ profit.

When deciding on a new drug’s retail price, the manufacturer considers several areas of concern such as the drug’s competition, government-granted exclusivity, patents in force, and a drug’s clinical effectiveness and benefit to patient outcomes.

Pricing a drug incorrectly can have severe consequences for the manufacturer’s bottom line. Private and public payers in the U.S. have ways of restricting patients’ access to drugs that they consider overpriced. In European countries, drug manufacturers risk being fined by authorities for unfair prices and excessive price hikes.

Value-based purchasing promotes competition in the pharmaceutical market

In the U.S., there are economic policies and legal loopholes that manipulate competition in the drug industry. The Biden administration considers this one of the key problems to address to support drug pricing reform. The president’s Executive Order 14036, the Competition Executive Order, calls for increased transparency, innovation, and competition.

Even though manufacturers take advantage of U.S. government protections that create temporary monopolies for some drugs, the large industry trade group PhRMA has joined the call for reforms that fix the current distortions in the market that stifle competition.

Manufacturers producing new drugs with in-class competition from other manufacturers—such as generics, biosimilars, or new uses or combinations of older drugs—use the real-world evidence gathered from value-based purchasing agreements to demonstrate the greater clinical value of their treatments compared to their competitors’ products. Data that show a drug’s uniqueness and effectiveness may be used to justify a manufacturer’s higher-than-average price.

In addition, manufacturers hope aligning a drug’s price to its clinical value will shift payers’ focus away from approving treatments based solely on the lowest price to covering similar treatments that might be more expensive but produce better health outcomes for patients.

Value-based purchasing incentivizes research and development (R&D) of new drugs

The post-market clinical data gathered under value-based purchasing can facilitate data-driven drug development. For example, the drug company Novartis published a position paper in which they stated they use real-world evidence to support the development of customized interventions and to invest in research in areas of the highest value for patients.

In the in recent years, the number of clinical trials and an overall increase in spending on brand-name prescription drugs suggest that pharmaceutical manufacturers have been concentrating their research and development dollars on new high-cost specialty drugs for complex, chronic, or rare conditions they expect will be the most profitable.

New treatments like these, where the drug’s value is yet to be established for payers, are good candidates for value-based purchasing arrangements. The successful implementation of value-based purchasing contracts—with better health outcomes for patients, cost controls for payers, and fair prices for manufacturers—encourages even more data-driven drug development.

The Lyfegen Platform

Value-based purchasing agreements are a complex but necessary part of doing business for pharmaceutical manufacturers. They provide a framework for assessing a drug’s value using shared outcome measures and provide real-world evidence of the benefits of their products for patient health outcomes. Manufacturers who are unwilling to enter into value-based purchasing contracts with payers may find themselves at a disadvantage in negotiations with other stakeholders.

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.


Value-based purchasing arrangements first appeared in the European markets in the 1990s, while U.S. healthcare markets did little with va...

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