CVS Health touts low drug price growth for PBM clients

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CVS Health touts low drug price growth for PBM clients

By David Salazar - 04/06/2018
CVS Health is highlighting the savings that it brought its pharmacy benefits manager clients in 2017. The company on Thursday said that last year, drug price growth clocked in at 0.2% for its CVS Caremark clients, even as manufacturer price inflation neared 10%. When combined with low drug utilization growth of 1.7%, this meant a 1.9% reduction in drug trend for its commercial clients — the lowest in five year, the company said.

“The healthcare landscape continues to evolve, but the cost of drugs remains a top concern for our clients and their members, who turn to us to ensure they are getting the most out of their pharmacy benefit plan,” CVS Health excecutive vice president and COO Jon Roberts. “At CVS Health, we always encourage the use of clinically appropriate therapeutic alternatives including generics, which can lower cost for payors and members, leverage competition within drug classes where applicable, and develop innovative strategies to keep prescriptions affordable. By lowering member costs, we are also helping to remove a key barrier to adherence. Members who are more adherent have better health outcomes and ultimately lower overall health care costs.”

One key factor CVS Health cited in keeping drug spend down was the growth in generic use, which boosted the generic dispensing rate for its PBM clients to more than 86%. The company said it used PBM strategies including $0 copays for preventive generics, as well as formulary strategies that prioritize using generics first and reduce costs in such high-use categories as anti-hypertensives and cholesterol-reducing drugs. CVS Health said that plan designs that promoted lower cost therapies and targeted adherence interventions helped improve adherence by as much as 1.8 percentage points in such categories as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

On the specialty front, CVS Health said that while price inflation for the high-cost category rose 8.3% in 2017, it managed to keep specialty drug cost growth to 3.7% for its clients by using formulary strategies, cost-cap-based rebates and indication- and outcomes-based contracting.

The company noted that it managed formulary approach actually drove a decline in drug price of 0.1% for clients aligned with its managed formularies. It said that these clients aslo had lower per-member-per-month costs despite seeing greater utilization. These efforts are alongside the real-time benefits information initiative CVS Health undertook in 2017 to allow prescribers to see a patient’s out-of-pocket costs and tailor their prescribing to more affordable options.