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Internists Speak on Impact of Rising Drug Costs On Patients, Clinicians, and Public Programs

Capitol Hill briefing by the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing

April 9, 2015

(Washington)-David A. Fleming, MD, MA, MACP, president of The American College of Physicians (ACP), today joined a Capitol Hill briefing to offer first-hand perspectives on how high drug costs are impacting patients, clinicians, and public programs. Dr. Fleming focused his remarks on the impact he has witnessed on patients.

The five-person panel was made up of another physician and other representatives of the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP), a coalition working for solutions to skyrocketing prescription medicine prices. ACP is the largest medical-specialty organization and second-largest physician group in the United States and a member of CSRxP.

"ACP members work on the front lines of our health care delivery system and have witnessed firsthand the harm caused to patient health and personal finances by unsustainable pharmaceutical drug prices, especially those for new specialty drugs," said Dr. Fleming. "Exorbitant drug prices deny patients access to life-enhancing medicines and result in higher out-of-pocket costs, premiums, and taxes. To prevent our health care system from going bankrupt, we need to establish a drug pricing structure based on value and data-driven evidence and balance between the interests of innovative drug manufacturers and those of society and our health care system."

Many -- though not all -- high-cost therapies are known as "specialty drugs." A specialty drug is typically one that is used to treat a very complex condition, is difficult to administer or store, and often is a biologic (cell based) rather than a chemical compound.

In 2013 specialty drugs accounted for less than 1 percent of U.S. prescriptions but for more than 25 percent of prescription spending. By the end of the decade, just 2 to 3 percent of all prescribed medications will be specialty drugs, but they will account for roughly 50 percent of the total drug spending, according to CVS Health.

"The pricing of specialty drugs increasingly lacks transparency and rationality," noted Dr. Fleming. "We're seeing the introduction of many patent-protected drugs with monopolistic pricing power that fail to demonstrate a relationship between their price and their value to the health care system. Though many of these medications offer great promise, the price tag for health care clinicians and patients is simply too much to bear."

An Express Scripts trend report finds a one-year nearly 31 percent rise in spending on specialty drugs from 2013 to 2014.

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The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 141,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.

Contact: David Kinsman, (202) 261-4554
dkinsman@acponline.org