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This Week in Health Care Reform - August 28th, 2015

A new tool seeks to insert a cost-benefit rationale into the oncology drug conversation; meanwhile, candidates would do well to develop their drug price platform; and, telehealth receives a big boost.


Week in Review

Cancer Drug CBA: Our health care system is in the midst of an historic reimagining.  As quality and access continue to improve, focus justifiably turns to how we can produce similar results when it comes to the issue of cost.  Unfortunately, as we’ve seen, the advances we’ve come to realize these past few years across the health care system are threatened to be completely wiped out by the rising and unsustainable price of prescription drugs.  As stakeholders across the spectrum struggle to manage these escalating costs, one group of experts is launching a new tool aimed at assessing the efficacy of an increasingly expensive class of drugs.  Announced last week by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), their cost-benefit analysis tool will provide oncologists with greater insight into the relative value of available medication options, most notably, in those instances where a particularly costly therapy does little to improve survival.  While not an explicit goal of the initiative, the introduction of this kind of cost-benefit analysis has already made drug manufacturers uncomfortable.  But, with worldwide spending on cancer drugs quadrupling from 2009 to 2014, reaching $100 billion last year, it’s become increasingly harder to ignore that out-of-control drug costs pose an exigent threat to the viability of our health care system.

Rx Costs & the Candidates:
As covered last week, a growing majority of Americans are worried about the rising cost of drugs in this country.  In fact, the issue has now supplanted the divisive health care law as voters’ top health care concern.  Accordingly, Presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle are facing increased pressure to address the issue.  While most have demurred, a few have willingly tackled the topic.  As more and more experts and stakeholders raise the profile of drug costs on the campaign trail, the need for a broad discussion concerning the effects that high prescription drug prices are having on our country becomes unavoidable.

CVS Investment:
Earlier this week, CVS announced that it would be teaming up with a trio of telehealth services providers to further the services it was currently offering its customers.  After successful completion of the pilot telehealth program that the company had been offering through its MinuteClinic chain of in-store facilities, CVS announced that, in partnership with these telehealth providers, they would be expanding these services to customers beyond the confines of its drugstores and clinics.  While the retailer’s size, scale, and scope, certainly distinguish it as one of the larger utilizers of the rapid advances offered up by the application of technology in the health care delivery space, telehealth continues to weave itself into how and where and when consumers and patients interact with their care needs.  That’s not to say, though, that there are clear skies ahead for telehealth.  A number of issues will undoubtedly shape strategic thinking regarding its large-scale deployment in the near future, leaving some to ask, “What’s taking so long?”

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Looking Ahead

With Congress poised to return to the business of legislating after their August sojourn, thoughts turn to what might be on the health care docket heading into the fall. 

With the Labor Day Holiday coming up, there will not be a newsletter next week.  But, look for us again on the other side of the break.

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