New 'dashboard' shows high cost of Medicare drugs

By Peter Sullivan, The Hill, December 21, 2015

Picture are a number of empty pill vials lined up in a row.

The Obama administration on Monday released an “online dashboard” giving the public tools to explore data around high-cost prescription drugs.

The release comes as the administration explores how to combat rising drug prices.

The new dashboard allows users to compare spending on 80 drugs that have cost Medicare significant amounts of money in 2014. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which released the dashboard, says it is trying to increase transparency around drug prices amid rising scrutiny. 

“The data can be used to spur research and public discussion of how these drug products are being used in Medicare and how they are affecting beneficiary costs,” the CMS said in a statement. 

Users can see trends in costs and the number of people using the drug over the past five years.

Just 40 drugs out of the 3,761 in the Medicare prescription drug program make up a full 33 percent of the total $121.5 billion in yearly costs.  

High drug prices have moved to the top of the list of the public’s healthcare concerns and have become prominent on the campaign trail. Hillary Clinton, for example, has pounded pharmaceutical companies for price increases. 

In releasing the dashboard Monday, the administration noted that drug prices increased 12 percent last year, the highest growth rate since 2002. 

The release of the dashboard comes after a November forum the administration held to hear from the industry, advocates and others about drug prices and lay the groundwork for future action. 

“How do we make public the information that will allow us to understand prices and value?” CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt said then. 

Paying for value is also at the forefront of the conversation in Washington. 

At the November forum, Health Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell mentioned the possibility of implementing new payment models for Medicare and Medicaid that would pay for a drug based on how effective it is shown to be.   

Last week, five Democratic senators wrote to the administration seeking information on how it can use its authority to change how it pays for drugs and fight rising costs. 

http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/263966-administration-releases-new-drug-price-tool-amid-scrutiny

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