Headshot of Joe MenzinAlmost every day, I see unflattering news stories regarding drug pricing and the cost of pharmaceuticals. Whether it’s a supplier raising the costs of essential drugs like the Epi-Pen several-fold or a new CAR-T drug priced at a seemingly exorbitant rate – not unlike a three-bedroom house here in the Boston area – media and government scrutiny is clearly growing.

What does this imply about the market of pharmaceuticals? Is it irrevocably broken? Perhaps not.

Two efforts are underway to bring more rationality to drug pricing in the US: (1) economic evaluations with some teeth, such as those undertaken by ICER; and (2) risk-sharing arrangements, sometimes termed value- or outcomes-based contracting. The former is attempting, imperfectly, to bring value for money into the discussion. The latter is focused on the increased buying power of a more concentrated health insurance industry where eventual price concessions, fair or not, may be forestalled.

These initiatives bring some level of economic rationality to the market by moving value metrics to the forefront of price negotiations. In the near future, perhaps drug pricing will become a bit less mysterious. Not a bad thought for those of us charged with understanding the economics of pharmaceuticals.

Joe Menzin, PhD
Author

Joseph Menzin, Ph.D. is the CEO of BHE, a health analytics research firm that he founded in 1996. He has more than 30 years of experience in the fields of outcomes research, epidemiology, and informatics. Joe spearheaded the development and launch of BHE’s flagship analytics platforms. He has authored several dozen papers in medical, pharmacy, and outcomes research journals across a wide range of subjects from clinical trials to program evaluation. He serves as a reviewer for numerous journals, and is a member of many professional associations. Joe has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Rochester and earned his doctorate in Economics from Boston University.

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