News & Views: 3/2 - 3/8

March 9, 2021

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a new report on off-label prescription drug use and suggest HHS to investigate off-label prescribing behavior.

CRS reported that 38% of all prescriptions and 56% of oncology prescriptions are prescribed for off-label uses. While this is seen, particularly in oncology, for clinical purposes, physicians are also prescribing off label to limit high costs to their patients. The report urges HHS to further investigate off-label practices that may risk patients’ safety and the effectiveness of the medications they are prescribed. To read the full report, click here.

HHS Secretary-nominee Xavier Becerra has yet to be confirmed but continues to speak vaguely on key drug pricing policies.

In the most recent Senate Finance Committee’s written questions, Becerra avoided answering whether or not he will support the use of march-in rights to lower the costs of prescription medications, despite urging Congress to do so with remdesivir in 2020. One issue he has made his position clear is his support of the 340B program. However, other than his support for growing the 340B program, he has remained relatively neutral throughout his hearings, saying that is he is confirmed HHS “will conduct a thorough review to identify and analyze the tools at our disposal to reduce the price of drugs and make treatments more affordable and accessible for the American people." To read the full article, click here.

Researchers from the University of Chicago published their investigation of cost-related nonadherence among Medicare beneficiaries at high risk of hospitalization in JAMA.

The study focused on the prevalence of cost-related nonadherence of beneficiaries who are on high-cost medications. Even though the study population only accounts for 5% of the total population, their high out of pocket costs make up an estimated 50% of healthcare spending. Researchers found that cost-related nonadherence is 366% more prevalent in beneficiaries who are at higher risk of hospitalization due to their condition(s) compared to the national mean prevalence for all Medicare beneficiaries. To read the full study, click here.

CIDSA Experts in the News

Rena Conti discussed what the recent partnership between Johnson & Johnson and Merck could mean moving forward after the pandemic. Most of the interview focused on the “unprecedented collaboration” of the two rival manufacturers to produce COVID-19 vaccines, but Conti also touched on how manufacturers can grow from this in the future to reduce barriers to facilitate greater innovation. To read the entire interview, click here.

Mariana Socal and Ge Bai analyzed Part D claims from 2017 and found that Medicare Part D spends an extra $1.7 billion a year by prescribing brand drugs over generic drugs in a JAMA open article. Of the 169 million claims of multisource drugs, 4.9% (8.3 million claims) were dispended with a brand name medication. Of those 8.3 million claims, if the claims that dispensed brand drugs due to prescriber requests were made generic, the Medicare program would have saved $997 million and Medicare patients would have saved $161 million. Similarly, if the claims that dispensed brand drugs due to patient requests were made generic, the Medicare program and its patients would have saved $673 million and $109 million, respectively. To read the full study, click here.

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