Drug Transparency Can Help Patients Make Better, More Informed Decisions

Expert Interview

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Lathe Bigler, Vice President of Clinical Network Services at FDB and General Manager at FDB Vela, discusses drug transparency and why it's important for patients to shop around for their prescriptions.

Drug Topics: Hello, my name is Killian Meara, Associate Editor at Drug Topics. I'm here with Lathe Bigler, Vice President of Clinical Network Services at FDB and General Manager at FDB Vela. Lathe, thanks for joining me today.

Lathe Bigler: Thanks, Killian. We appreciate it.

Drug Topics: With the price of medications continuing to increase, patients are looking for ways to ensure they are paying the best price for their prescriptions, but accessing the information hasn't been easy so far. What trend do you see for drug prices going forward?

Bigler: Well, I think we very well may likely see them continue to increase. I think that more drugs are being approved by the FDA each year, and I think that what we're going to see is an increase, especially when it comes to specialty drugs. Specialty drugs are almost about 50 % of our entire drug therapy spend in the United States. However, it's only about 20% to 25 % of the total volume. So, I think we're going to see those trends continue in that direction in the future.

Drug Topics: Why has it been so hard to bring transparency to drug therapy?

Bigler: I think it could be a couple of different items, situations all happening at once. Really, I think, number one, there's been sort of a limited access to drug benefit detail, especially when it comes to a prescriber that's providing the therapy or the care to the patient. There's been that lack of being able to retrieve that information at the right time to make good decisions. Luckily, I think we've made some changes in the last couple of years around real -time pharmacy benefit data, but there are still a lot of issues with that, not only with just accessing that information readily, but having it provided to a doctor who doesn't necessarily have the time to do a lot of drug shopping when it comes to costs with their patients. I think we've made a lot of headway in that direction, but we're still not quite there yet.

Drug Topics: Why is it important for consumers to shop around for their prescription price?

Bigler: You know, I think we, speaking specifically of the United States, we're ready for it. I mean, I think we're becoming better consumers, we're becoming better shoppers. Where several years ago, I think a lot of individuals were uncomfortable buying things online. I think evidence with the success of Amazon and even with Instagram over the last year of being able to buy items online shows that we're just ready for it as a nation and as patients to be able to access critical information that helps us make better decisions based on our therapy associated with those costs.

Drug Topics: Right, and you mentioned it a little bit about how we are better shoppers. How do we continue to enable consumers to be more informed when it comes to filling their prescriptions?

Bigler: I think in the past patients felt like there was no place for them to make decisions relative to anything with their health. We were uncomfortable with it. I think by design, a lot of that responsibility was left up to our providers, to our doctors. I think it was left to our health plans. And I think that one of the critical ways that we can expand on enabling patients is giving them direct access to that information, not making them go through their provider to shop, not making them go to all different types of websites. I think there's ways that we can leverage technology to enable a patient or the member of a health plan to access critical information relative to pricing for their therapy in real time.

Drug Topics: Do you think now is the right time for this kind of innovation?

Bigler: 100%, I absolutely do. In fact, that's one thing that we're focused on and dedicated on doing here at FDB with our new Vela platform, is looking for ways that we can enable real -time information to be provided to that patient right, literally in the palm of their hand, while they're being prescribed.

Drug Topics: Is there anything else that you wanted to touch upon that we haven't talked about?

Bigler: No, I think we're, again, I really appreciate the time. These are very important topics. I think we're seeing a lot of legislation that's starting to support that with transparency around pricing with the PBMs. I think there's great organizations like GoodRX that are trying to create more transparency, couponing, buying options for patients. I strongly urge all players in health care to work together and work with us to achieve these goals of helping the patients make better decisions, lower abandonment rates, and figure out better ways to give patients their medications without completely breaking their bank.

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