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Drugmakers Point Finger at Middlemen for Rising Drug Prices (Essay Sample)


Marketing (MKTG 400)
Fall 2016 Group Project Fred Guzek
Drugmakers Point Finger at Middlemen for Rising Drug Prices
Due: ______Friday, November 18th__________
This project is intended to encourage you to apply the concepts presented in this class to a real marketing issue. A recent Wall Street Journal article (“Drugmakers Point Finger at Middlemen for Rising Drug Prices”) tells about problems within the pharmaceutical industry. Your group assignment is to write a paper discussing these issues, and analyzing the various strategic choices which have been made, and the strategies you would recommend going forward.
The following list addresses specific elements of the assignment:
1. Research the topic. Develop a realistic understanding of the issues associated with pricing and promoting this type of business, and the advantages of various strategies. 
2. Make strategic recommendations to at least one firm, particularly with regard to pricing and public relations efforts, and support those recommendations with good arguments. 
1. Remember that this is a marketing class. The object is to apply the marketing ideas to these topics. 
2. Limit your report to 8-10 pages, plus exhibits and appendices.
3. Use the concepts taught in this class. The marketing concept, public relations, branding, benefit segmentation, and positioning through the manipulation of the marketing mix are just a few of the ideas and techniques that are appropriate for this discussion.
4. Your group grade will be based upon both your application of marketing principles and techniques and the clarity and organization of your report.
5. The paper is due by midnight on the day specified on the first page of these instructions. The grade will be reduced by one full letter grade for each day that the paper is late up to a maximum delay of two days. After the second day (i.e.- starting with day three), the paper will not be accepted and a grade of zero will be recorded.
6. Have fun!
Drugmakers Point Finger at Middlemen for Rising Drug Prices
Pharmacy-benefit managers and the rebates they command come in for criticism by pharmaceutical executives
By Joseph Walker
The Wall Street Journal website, updated Oct. 3, 2016 12:43 p.m. ET 
As U.S. drug prices rise, drugmakers are playing down their role, instead heaping blame on the middlemen who help determine how medicines are priced. 
Some of the sharpest criticism has come from drug-industry executives who have been grilled by lawmakers or skewered on social media over sharp price increases on their products. They include the chief of Mylan NV, maker of the lifesaving EpiPen, who says her company is being tarred unfairly for a dysfunctional system in which wholesalers, pharmacies and pharmacy-benefit managers take their own cut of each prescription.
Pharmacy-benefit managers, or PBMs, oversee drug-benefit plans for employers and health insurers. Their job is to hold down the cost of providing those benefits, which they do by choosing which drugs to cover and using that leverage to wrest lower prices from drugmakers through rebates. PBMs keep some of those savings but pass most of it on to their clients.
But the system has some serious side effects, drug executives and other critics say. Because rebates are based on a percentage of a drug’s list price, PBMs have benefited as the price of drugs has skyrocketed in recent years. 
Critics say these rebates also can encourage drug companies to increase prices more sharply than they would have done otherwise. For example, if a drugmaker wants to raise the price it gets for a drug by 6% to drive sales growth and offset research costs, it has to raise the sticker price even more than that to offset the percentage it rebates to PBMs, says Ron Cohen, chief executive of drugmaker Acorda Therapeutics Inc. 
“So you get this pressure year after year that tends to escalate the price increases,” said Dr. Cohen, who is also chairman of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a biotech trade group 
PBMs deny that they cause drug-price inflation, saying drug costs would be even higher without rebates. “We have every incentive to make costs as low as possible,” said Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer at CVS Health Corp. , whose Caremark unit is one the biggest PBMs, along with UnitedHealth Group Inc. ’s OptumRx and industry leader Express Scripts Holding Co. 
PBMs compete aggressively on price to win business from “very sophisticated purchasers,” Mr. Brennan added. 
For many years, drugmakers defended the practice of privately negotiating rebates as a market-based alternative to government-run price negotiations. They also prospered under the rebate system, which largely failed to curb drug-price increases.
Now, with drugmakers under scrutiny for sometimes-dramatic price increases, some industry executives say the system no longer works efficiently and is ripe for reform.
“As the pressure on drugmakers has increased, they have been trying to deflect that pressure by pointing to another scapegoat,” says Geoff Porges, a biotechnology analyst at Leerink Partners LLC.
In August, Mylan Chief Executive Heather Bresch, lambasted for raising EpiPen prices, said that the “broken” system of paying for drugs was to blame for price increases on the product, which counteracts severe allergic reactions. “The irony is that the system incentivizes higher prices,” Ms. Bresch said on CNBC.
Pfizer Inc. Chief Executive Ian Read said recently that “the absence of rebates would be healthy for the system.” Drugmakers are paying bigger rebates to PBMs, Mr. Read said at an investor conference, but patients are paying more for prescriptions. “The rebates are being paid, and the copays are going up,” for consumers with drug coverage, he said.
PBMs say they aren’t responsible for rising copays, which are set by health insurers and employers. Express Scripts, the largest PBM, says it advises clients to cap copays for even very expensive drugs at $150.
“EpiPens are expensive because Mylan raised the price of EpiPens,” Steve Miller, chief medical officer at Express Scripts, said in a recent interview. “To blame it on distributors…is just ridiculous.”
Despite their purchasing power, PBMs have struggled to hold down drug costs. U.S. spending on prescription drugs is estimated to have risen 8% to $321.9 billion last year, compared with a 5.6% increase on all health-care consumption, according to federal data.
Many major drugmakers, meanwhile, have continued to report higher sales, driven in part by price increases. 
Criticism of PBMs has accelerated as the industry has consolidated and grown more powerful, while also more-aggressively steering patients to drugs with the largest rebates. The industry’s top three account for three-quarters of the U.S. market—up from 49% in 2011, according to Jefferies LLC. Their combined operating profit was $10.1 billion last year, up 30% from 2013. 
Beyond rebates, PBMs collect other fees based on a percentage of drugs’ prices. PBMs charge drug companies “rebate administration fees” of 2% to 5% of product sales in exchange for tracking the rebates owed to their clients, and providing data on claims that drug companies use to assess market share. PBMs also collect percentage-based fees for distributing high-price drugs through their own mail-order pharmacies.
Express Scripts keeps in aggregate 10% to 15% of rebates, though some clients negotiate to have all rebates passed back to them and pay higher flat fees instead, Everett Neville, Express Scripts’ senior vice president for supply-chain management, said in a January interview.
Mr. Neville said that PBMs profit from higher prices, but don’t cause them. “Absolutely, we benefit when prices rise,” he said “The same way that guys who plow driveways in the Northeast makes money when it snows a lot. We don’t make it snow, though.”


Drug makers Point fingers at Middlemen for rising drug Price
Course title:
Health services in America are a basic right for every citizen. It is also the purpose of the government that healthcare service should remain affordable for every person. However, in recent times, the prices of pharmaceutical products have been on the rise and the trend seems to continue. The manufacturers are now crying foul and heaping blame on the middlemen whom they accuse of price inflation leading to the upsurge of prices. According to the sentiments by manufacturers, the middle-people in the chain of supply have created what is seen as cartels which have taken over the industry. While drugs are priced reasonably at the point of manufacture, there are very many people in the middle all of whom seek to benefit. In the end, the last prices at which the pharmaceutical products are released into the market are too exorbitant. His discussion has sought to examine these claims made by the manufacturer while seeking to establish possible solutions to the problem.
Pharmacy Benefit Managers
The main role of pharmacy benefit managers is to provide plans of drug benefit to health insurers and employers (Walker, 2016). Usually, the PBMs will select the drug to cover and will negotiate for lower prices from drug manufacturers. This is done through what is known as rebates. Rebates work in such a way that the amount of money that drug companies make from the sale of drugs, part of is deducted and retained by PBMs. As such drug companies must mark up the prices of drugs in consideration of the fact that part of that money will go to these organizations. Rebates are often based on a certain percentage of the total drug price which means that when prices of drugs go up, so do the rebates.
On their end, PBMs have refuted the claims by drug manufacturers arguing that the real cause of price upsurge is not rebates. According to them, they are the reason why the situ...
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