NCPA tells Congress: Drug shortages mean higher costs, fewer prescriptions filled

February 14, 2012

Drug shortages have resulted in higher acquisition costs for pharmacies and the inability to fill prescriptions, according to a new survey, and the National Community Pharmacists Association conveyed that message to Congress.

Drug shortages have resulted in higher acquisition costs for pharmacies and the inability to fill prescriptions, according to a new survey, and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) conveyed that message to Congress.

The survey by NCPA of 675 community pharmacists also found that retail pharmacies aren’t receiving proper reimbursement by health plans and pharmacy benefit management (PBM) companies for the higher costs.

NCPA presented its views on the drug shortages problem last week to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Virtually all (96%) of the retail pharmacists have experienced a drug shortage in the past 6 months, according to the results. Eighty-two percent have been experiencing drug shortages at least daily (59%) or weekly (23%). In addition, 80% said that the average shortage lasts 3 weeks or longer.

Seventy-eight percent of pharmacists indicated that patients have to go without taking their medications because of shortages.

“The prevalence of patients going without their medications, as indicated by the survey, is troubling,” NCPA spokesperson Kevin Schweers said. The pharmacists said they were most concerned about the availability of Adderall and its generic equivalents. Topical creams and ointments have also been in short supply.

The drug shortages are also causing big problems with pharmacists’ reimbursements. Eighty-one percent have realized price fluctuations resulting in higher drug acquisition costs. However, 62% said that health plan/PBM reimbursements have not been updated to reflect acquisition cost increases.

Fifty-two percent said that insurance companies/PBMs do not cover alternative therapies when the prescribed drug is not available. In those cases, the patient must pay out-of-pocket.

As a result, NCPA is urging Congress to enact H.R. 1971/S. 1058, the Pharmacy Competition and Consumer Choice Act, and for states to enact similar legislation.

“First, it would ensure more frequent updates to pharmacy reimbursement, to better reflect market changes. Second, it would require transparency from PBMs to empower employers and other plan sponsors to get a better deal on their prescription drug plan,” Schweers said.