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ATAP Responds to UnitedHealthcare Statement on Direct-to-Consumer Rebates, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb Statement on Biosimilar Competition

The Alliance for Transparent & Affordable Prescriptions (ATAP) is encouraged by UnitedHealthcare’s announcement that it will start passing on savings from drug manufacturers directly to patients by applying manufacturer rebates and discounts to their medication costs at the point of sale.

Prescription drug affordability is a top concern for Americans. As a coalition of physicians and patient advocates, our mission is to make medications more affordable and accessible. By educating the public about PBMs—the middlemen hired by insurers to manage drug benefit programs—and their role in raising drug prices, ATAP seeks to give a voice to the patients hurt by this country’s broken system.

This new policy could help lower out-of-pocket costs for patients, and we are hopeful that when implemented, UnitedHealthcare’s policy will reflect the need for a more transparent, patient-centered drug delivery system in the United States. But while this may be a step in the right direction, there is much more work to be done to bring meaningful change to the convoluted and opaque rebate system. Physicians and patients still have very little information on what drugs cost and whether rebates and discounts are ultimately passed from PBMs to health plans and eventually consumers, and PBMs continue to design formularies based on rebate amounts instead of safety efficacy, and costs to patients.

ATAP also applauds FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD for his statement yesterday emphasizing the importance of biosimilar competition in bringing down the rising prices of biologics. According to Commissioner Gottlieb:

Payors are going to have to decide what they want: The short-term profit goose that comes with the rebates, or in the long run, a system that functions better for patients, providers, and those who pay for care … Do they want to continue to benefit from monopoly rents today, or help generate a vibrant biosimilar market that can help reset biologic pricing—and drug pricing more generally—through competition.

The Commissioner’s statement and the new UnitedHealthcare pass through policy is yet another sign that the industry is beginning to acknowledge the problems in the delivery system, and that ATAP’s core message and extensive advocacy is resonating not only with policymakers, but also with the general public as well. ATAP welcomes the opportunity to support both UnitedHealth Group and Commissioner Gottlieb’s office in their efforts to address drug costs and the broken system in general, and looks forward to working together to finally put patients first.