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The Week That Was: Crises in Communications

The Week That Was: Crises in Communications

August 22, 2016 0 Comments

While American voters may be unexcited by their choices at the voting booth come November, the only other group that they may be equally disappointed with is — well — us. Last week, sentiment about the pharmaceutical industry plummeted to an all-time low. Consumers voiced outrage that insurers may increase premiums significantly. And ICER, which was on the defensive last week, is back up and swinging for another round.

So here’s our take in The Week That Was. Oh! And if you missed last week’s healthcare headlines…then check us out in the Holmes Report.

PHARMA  INDUSTRY GETS “BOTTOM OF THE CLASS” AWARD

Drum roll please… This year’s Gallup Poll reputation results are in and sadly (though unsurprisingly), the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries did not fare well. A random sample of 1,032 U.S. adults confirmed what we already are noticing in public outcry: pharma’s not winning any popularity contests and healthcare, in general, is not doing so hot either. In fact, the pharmaceutical industry’s reputational score was 23, and yes, that’s a negative integer (cue painful memories of high school algebra). Pharma’s score is the worst in Gallup’s 16-year trend, down from -8 in 2015. Not good. Party-wise, Democrats have continued to be more positive than Republicans in their view of the healthcare industry. But, pharma was spared the unique honor of the “worst in class” award, which was reserved for none other than the federal government.

OUR TAKE

It’s no shock that Americans’ attitudes toward pharma and healthcare are poor given that national headlines are routinely profiling concerns over drug prices, high-deductible insurance plans and increased co-insurance burdens. Drug makers need to take extraordinary efforts now to remind Americans of what it does to improve and extend peoples’ lives in terms that resonate with them… and at prices they can afford. If it doesn’t do this, it will surely face consequences post November.  

TICKETS ON SALE NOW: INSURER-PATIENT ELECTION FIGHT

In other disgruntled consumer news, health insurers are using an Affordable Care Act review mechanism to make a case for premium hikes in 2017… and American patients are shall we say, “less than pleased.” The mechanism’s original purpose was to prevent exorbitant increases in health insurance rates, but it’s potentially being used by insurers to increase premiums. Under the mechanism, payers are highlighting reasons why they’re losing money and using it to defend their rationale for hiking premiums as much as 20 – 40%. Payers claim they’re taking net losses and pointing the blame at a number of causes ranging from “high drug prices” to large claims from individuals at the top of the cost structure.

OUR TAKE

With double-digit premium increases being teased, American consumers aren’t taking the news lying down. Some, including The New York Times, questioned why insurers haven’t considered cost containment measures like lowering executives’ pay. With the collapse of a dozen nonprofit health insurance cooperatives and several large insurers exiting the exchanges, consumers are getting left without good choices. Get your tickets early… the fight over increasing premiums is sure to be a showdown.

ICER GETS KNOCKED DOWN, BUT IT GETS UP AGAIN

Yes, readers, you’re reading this right. It was just last week when we said the Institute for Clinical & Economic Review (ICER) was on the defensive after drug makers and patients alike accused it of utilizing incomplete methodology that neglected patient feedback. Yet, apparently ICER’s theme song is Tubthumping, because as soon as it was knocked down, it was up again (sorry for those readers who were born after the early ‘90s…you missed this album and a lot of neon apparel). Last week, three of ICER’s leading authors published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association rehashing its review from 2015 on the cost effectiveness of PCSK-9 medicines – the medicines that have been referred to as a “silver bullet” for people with rare genetic forms of severely high cholesterol.

OUR TAKE

ICER may be down, but they’re clearly not to be counted out. The group which has self-proclaimed its remit to evaluate the cost effectiveness of medicines to the healthcare system has now achieved the validation of one of our nation’s top medical journals. Earlier this year, CMS also legitimized ICER when it proposed a sweeping pilot initiative to change physician compensation under Medicare Part B. The net / net is that whether its ICER, DrugAbacus, or another group, value frameworks are here to stay until industry addresses drug pricing more proactively and boldly.

On that light note, we’ll see you next week.

 The Issues Management Practice @inVentiv Health PR

Missed us last week? Past issues can be found on our blog by clicking here.

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