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Prescription Drugs

Commentary: Don’t cap prescription drug prices

Dorothy Leone-Glasser

Dorothy Leone-Glasser

New, ultra-expensive drugs have helped fuel the rise of health care costs, experts say.

The number of patients taking at least $100,000 worth of prescription drugs annually tripled from 2013 to 2014, according to a report from pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts.

But Dorothy Leone-Glasser says cracking down on drug prices would be a shortsighted and ultimately dangerous strategy.

The executive director of Atlanta-based Advocates for Responsible Care says in a new GHN Commentary that price controls on drugs are not the answer to high costs because they would undermine the incentives for further product development.

The new medical treatments “have saved and improved my life and the lives of 133 million Americans suffering from chronic diseases,’’ Leone-Glasser says. “Now, some politicians could jeopardize continued medical progress by capping pharmaceutical prices.”

Here’s a link to her Commentary.

Georgia Health News welcomes Commentary submissions. If you would like to propose a Commentary piece for Georgia Health News, please email Andy Miller, editor of GHN, at


Health insurance rates headed up in 2016

Many Georgians buying individual or family health insurance will see double-digit increases in their premiums for 2016.

Healthcare CostInsurance rates approved recently by Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens range from hikes of 27 percent and 29 percent for Alliant Health Plans’ individual policyholders to slight decreases for a few plans.

An analysis by Bill Custer, a health insurance expert at Georgia State University, found the average increase for a person purchasing an individual or family policy next year is in the double digits, both for the insurance exchange and those in the regular market.

The variations show that consumers should “wait and see and prepare to shop around’’ for coverage, Custer said. “We’ll see average increases that are going to be higher than the last four years.”

Health costs in general are rising 8 percent to 10 percent, Custer noted. full story

Budget focus: Medicaid growth, hep C drugs, SHBP

The state’s Department of Community Health is asking for additional state funds to cover projected Georgia enrollment for Medicaid and PeachCare, which for the first time will exceed 2 million.

Clyde Reese

Clyde Reese

The budget proposal also requests $23 million to cover the high cost of drugs to treat hepatitis C patients in both the midyear fiscal 2016 budget and in the 2017 plan.

The budget plans, approved by Community Health’s board Thursday, now go to Gov. Nathan Deal and then to the Georgia General Assembly for approval.

It would be the second straight year that the agency will not have to cut its base budget, said Community Health Commissioner Clyde Reese. The agency’s current budget is roughly $3 billion in state funds.

Hepatitis C drugs have an astronomical cost, averaging more than $30,000 per patient per month in retail price. But states, including Georgia, can get a discount on that price for their Medicaid programs that could reach 40 percent. full story

Study reveals patterns of prescription drug abuse

People who have recently used illicit drugs have a higher likelihood of misusing prescription painkillers as well, a University of Georgia study has found.

The nationwide study, published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, also revealed a significant age difference in how people obtain these pain medications.

Prescription painkiller Vicodin

Prescription painkiller Vicodin

Older adults were more likely to report acquiring these drugs by going to multiple physicians, while younger people were more likely to get the painkillers from friends, relatives or drug dealers.

Abuse of opioid painkillers is a major national problem.

From 1999 to 2013, the amount of opioid painkillers prescribed and sold in this country nearly quadrupled. In 2013 alone, more than 16,000 people died in the United States from opioid painkillers, which include hydrocodone, oxycodone and codeine. full story

Bill on ‘biosimilar’ drugs easily clears panel

$1,300 a month.

That’s how much Kerry Tucker spends for the “biologic” medication to treat her arthritis.

Kerry Tucker

Kerry Tucker

“And I have health insurance,’’ she told lawmakers Thursday.

Biologic drugs are specially engineered drugs that have made a major difference in people’s ability to handle their symptoms from arthritis and other diseases. But they also carry a high price tag.

Tucker, an Atlanta resident, came to the state Capitol to testify for a bill that would make it easier for patients like her to get a cheaper medication that’s similar to a biologic drug they are currently taking.

The goal of Senate Bill 51 is to create a state structure for the prescribing of “biosimilar’’ drugs – and could potentially save Georgians money.  full story

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