Gottlieb: Drug rebates not benefiting sicker patients

Gottlieb: Drug rebates not benefiting sicker patients
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Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Wednesday that drug discounts known as rebates are not directly benefiting sicker patients, an area where the Trump administration is looking to make changes.

Gottlieb, who announced Tuesday that he is resigning from the FDA, indicated that rebates should be passed directly to patients, rather than going to insurers and being used to lower premiums for everyone.

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“The discounts come in the form of back-ended rebates in many cases that don't directly benefit the patient,” Gottlieb said at an event hosted by The Hill and sponsored by Eli Lilly.

“The patients who are spending the money and using the drugs and who are sick and out of pocket don't see the rebates directly,” he added. “The rebates are used to lower the price for everyone within a plan, so they're benefiting patients in the end, but they're not benefiting the patient who's sick and out of pocket.”

At the end of January, the Trump administration proposed taking sweeping action to change this system. The proposed rule would ban rebates unless they are directly passed on to the patient.

That proposal has drawn opposition from many Democrats and insurers, while receiving praise from many Republicans as well as drug companies.

Gottlieb also highlighted his efforts at FDA to cut down on gaming by drug companies to delay the introduction of cheaper generic drugs.

Insurers, meanwhile, are trying to direct attention directly at the price set by drug companies.

“Price is the problem,” Ceci Connolly, CEO of the Alliance of Community Health Plans, said at the event. “Price is the main problem when you talk about access to prescriptions today.”

Robert Popovian, a vice president at Pfizer, countered that drug pricing is “not a mystery, trust me.”

“There's a lot of analytics that [goes into it],” he added.