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CT’s Health Care Cabinet began drilling down into rising prescription drug costs and state options to stem the rise. We heard from Ameet Sarpatwari, consultant to NASHP on their report for states, and Tom Brownlie of Pfizer and Jenny Bryant of PhRMA. Dr. Sarpatwari outlined high US spending on drugs and the consequences for consumers’ health and finances. He acknowledged that drug companies face high, expensive hurdles in bringing a drug to market. But he also rebutted claims that high prices drive innovation (no evidence for that) and it’s the FDA’s fault (not true either). The real driver of rising costs, according to Dr. Sarpatwari, is the lack of competition and barriers to timely generic market entry. He outlined eleven state policy options including transparency laws, bulk purchasing, legal accountability, protecting consumers from misleading marketing, active shareholder advocacy, and creating a public utility for in-state drug prices.

Pfizer and PhRMA put drug spending in context of rising health costs across sectors, that retail prices are heavily discounted for most payers, and the important health improvements and cures that innovative new drugs provide. The speakers suggested better benefit design, medication synchronization, improving adherence and medication management. They also highlighted the recent sharp rise in cost shifting to consumers, which can reduce utilization of both high and low value medications. Cabinet members also offered successful counter detailing programs and public health prevention programs to manage conditions without medications as options. Our next meeting will be February 14th at 9am.