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Congress: ASPS on High Cost of Prescription Drugs

The House Ways & Means Committee unanimously passed the Prescription Drug Sunshine, Transparency, Accountability, and Reporting ("STAR") Act, a bipartisan effort to increase transparency and public reporting of information in the "opaque" prescription drug market. If enacted, the STAR Act is intended to address the high cost of prescription drugs and provide insight across the health care supply chain to ultimately reduce costs for families.

ASPS recognizes that the rising cost of pharmaceuticals is an issue for both patients and providers. However, the Society joined with the Alliance of Specialty Medicine (Alliance) in taking exception to a section within the legislation that will require drug manufacturers to annually report the value and quantity of sample medications provided to physicians via the Open Payments database. This website and downloadable database displays payments and other transfers of value (historically defined as honoraria, royalties, consulting services, gifts, entertainment and travel or lodging) made from manufacturers to physicians.

The Alliance highlighted the flawed premise that drug samples are "transfers of value" to physicians in a letter sent to Congress. The member societies emphasized the benefits of free samples, including the temporary help they can provide while insurance coverage is being authorized, or when determining if a new treatment is effective or may have side-effects. The letter also urges Congress not to advance the STAR Act until reform is implemented to address insurers' delay of treatment through step therapy, prior authorization, and other utilization management tools.

Following the submission of the Alliance's letter, the coalition was invited by the House Energy and Commerce Committee to testify on the bill during a drug pricing transparency hearing on May 21, 2019. ASPS worked with the members of the Alliance in finalizing Madelaine Feldman, MD's testimony to the Committee that articulated the coalition's concerns that the bill would limit patients' access to free drug samples.

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