WASHINGTON, May 11, 2018 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Community Oncology Alliance (COA) released the following statement regarding President Donald Trump's recently announced blueprint to lower drug prices and reduce out-of-pocket costs.
COA strongly supports President Trump and the Administration's work to put patients first and lower the price of prescription drugs. Ensuring patients can afford and access life-saving drugs to fight cancer is a top concern for oncologists, nurses, practice administrators, and other cancer care professionals across the country. As the providers of care for the majority of American's battling cancer, community oncologists are faced with the grim reality that the escalating costs of prescription drugs in the United States has to be contained.
COA believes that every stakeholder in our unbelievably complex health care system must come together and collaborate to reduce medical costs. If we are all willing to selflessly work together for the good of patients, the challenge of high drug prices can be addressed. COA looks forward to providing the Administration with detailed input from community oncology practices and professionals on the blueprint put forth by the President today.
"As a practicing oncologist, I see the impact of high drug costs firsthand every day," said Jeffrey Vacirca, MD, FACP, CEO of NY Cancer Specialists and president of COA. "Patients are financially burdened by high drug prices, sometimes even refusing or stopping treatment because they cannot afford it, and I am powerless to change that. Oncologists welcome efforts that learn from past mistakes, strengthen the critically important community cancer care delivery system, and ensure patients can afford and access the life-saving care they need close to home."
COA commends President Trump, Secretary of Health & Human Services Alex Azar, Administrator of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services Seema Verma, and Commissioner of Food and Drug Administration Scott Gottlieb, MD, for putting patients first by already moving forward with policies to reduce drug prices. These include ongoing work to reign in abusive fees and misappropriated rebates by middlemen Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs); fix the runaway 340B drug program that is enriching hospitals and not helping patients; and increasing competition through record-setting approval of new generic drugs. The Administration's efforts are already resulting in billions of dollars in savings for seniors and taxpayers.
While COA applauds the Administration's efforts and new blueprint, we urge caution. History has shown that even well-intended policymaking can backfire resulting in the unintended consequences of harming patients, increasing costs, and limiting access to care. This has been particularly true in cancer care, where Americans today are facing the financial impact of previous policymaking. Ongoing public policies behind efforts such as the sequester cut to Medicare drug reimbursement, growing negative presence of PBMs, and the out of control 340B drug pricing program in hospitals were all introduced to reduce health care costs but have, ironically, resulted in increased spending and bureaucracy that is adverse to patients, especially those with cancer.
COA is particularly dismayed that the Administration's blueprint does not include a stop to the ongoing sequester cut to Medicare drug payment. The previous administration began illegally applying the 2% sequester cut to Medicare reimbursement for cancer drugs and other critical specialty therapies beginning in 2013. Many oncology practices have not survived or are struggling to survive under the sequester cut that often places Medicare drug reimbursements below acquisition costs. This has fueled consolidation of the nation's cancer care system, closing community treatment sites, and forcing cancer care into the much more expensive hospital setting, thereby increasing costs to seniors, Medicare, and taxpayers.
According to the 2018 Community Oncology Alliance Practice Impact Report, in the six years since the Medicare sequester cut went into effect, 135 cancer treatment have clinics closed, and 189 practices (often with multiple clinic locations) have been bought by hospitals. Most of these practices have been acquired by 340B hospitals that realize incredible profits from prescribing more or more expensive cancer drugs purchased at discounts without the need to pass savings on to patients in need.
"Today, President Trump has proposed several important initiatives to lower drug prices that align perfectly with COA's ongoing work to advance meaningful, patient-centered solutions aimed at making cancer care less costly and more effective," said Ted Okon, executive director of COA. "However, it is really disturbing that the blueprint released today does not address the Medicare sequester cut to drug payments that is fueling higher costs and cancer drug prices. All the sequester cut to Medicare drug payments for cancer drugs has produced is less access to cancer treatment, higher costs for patients and Medicare, and increased drug prices. It has to be stopped now."
Community oncology providers are at the forefront of payment reform and are dedicated to lowering the cost of cancer care. COA stands ready to work with policymakers on reforms that will have a meaningful impact on reducing the cost of drugs and cancer care. Community oncology has been pioneering oncology payment reform for years, including private payer programs based on the Oncology Medical Home, the Medicare Oncology Care Model (OCM), and working on the next-generation, improved OCM 2.0 model that includes payment for cancer drugs based on value.
About the Community Oncology Alliance: COA is a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for community oncology practices and, most importantly, the patients they serve. COA is the only organization dedicated solely to independent community oncology where the majority of Americans with cancer are treated. The mission of COA is to ensure that cancer patients receive quality, affordable, and accessible cancer care in their own communities. For more than 15 years, COA has built a national grassroots network of community oncology practices to advocate for public policies that benefit cancer patients. Learn more about COA at www.CommunityOncology.org.
SOURCE Community Oncology Alliance