Each year, pharma companies make updates to their price lists in January. This reliably generates headlines and, occasionally, congressional hearings. In this week’s industry roundup, we take a look at the recent price increases and how they compare to last year’s. We also look at the ongoing battle over 340B program discounts between pharma companies and the Department of Health and Human Services, the key catalysts in Q1 for mid-market biotech companies, and examine whether changes to clinical trials in 2020 to make them more patient-centric are here to stay.
Each week, we highlight five things you need to know about in the life sciences industry. Here’s the latest.
2021 starts like most years – with a rush of price increases
Each January, pharmaceutical companies make updates to their pricing for both branded and generic drugs. Generally, this means price increases for a wide variety of drugs. Although there is normally a rush of such updates at the start of the month, additional price increases are common throughout January. So far in 2021, prices have increased for 636 drugs, according to GoodRx, with an average increase of 4.2%. This compares to price increases for 639 drugs in January 2020, at an average of 6% each.
(Bonus read: GoodRx research shows that these list price increases result in higher out-of-pocket costs for patients.)
HHS tells pharma companies they must provide 340B discounts in more settings
A fight is brewing between HHS and pharma companies over discounts under the 340B program, which provides discounted drugs to hospitals serving populations in need. Last year, pharma companies updated how they distributed some 340B discounted drugs so contract pharmacies supply those drugs, instead of the 340B eligible provider. Pharma companies contend that these measures are necessary to prevent abuse of the program, but HHS has said that the discounts apply even when delivered under these new programs. Although this opinion from HHS is not yet legally binding, it indicates that this fight is likely to continue to escalate in 2021.
Q1 will be busy for mid-market biotechs in front of the FDA
2020 brought major disruptions to clinical trials, but biotech companies adapted and Q1 will see numerous important clinical trial outcomes reported as a result. At least 18 companies with a market cap under $2 billion are expected to announce results to various Phase 1, 2 and 3 trials. These include critical studies for drugs in development from Rhythm, Wave, and Supernus. Evaluate Vantage reports on these key trials and provides a full list of expected results this quarter.
Out of a crisis, more patient-friendly trials are emerging
When pharma companies adapted to the pandemic, they pivoted to more patient-centric trials. Now, a movement is growing to ensure these changes are here to stay, this Clinical Leader article explains. In 2020, clinical trials made use of at-home visits, telemedicine, and patient remote monitoring to salvage patient recruitment and retention as people grew wary of visiting doctors and hospitals. The result was decentralized trials that were easier for patients to participate in. Decentralization increases the potential population of patients that can be reached in a trial, as well as patient compliance and retention.
Clinical trials became more diverse in 2020
This Pharmaceutical Executive piece highlights FDA 2020 policy changes and guidance updates designed to encourage more diversity among clinical trial participants. This was a continuation of a long-running trend but was pushed to forefront by the disparity between the groups that were most impacted by COVID-19 and those recruited to participate in vaccine trials.