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Analysis: Azar tries to calm concerns over proposal’s impact on HIV drugs

January 16th, 2019 | Posted in Uncategorized

BY Steven Porter  |  HealthLeaders Media

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar sought to quell concerns recently that a drug pricing proposal announced in November could result in restricted access to HIV treatment.

Some patient advocates have warned the Medicare Part D proposal also could undermine efforts to expand treatment for other serious conditions, including cancer. Public comment on the proposal will be accepted through January 25.

During a speech last month at the National Ryan White Conference on HIV Care and Treatment, Azar reassured the audience that the Trump administration’s underlying goal is to expand access to lifesaving drugs by making them more affordable.

“I know there have been concerns within the HIV community surrounding our proposal to give Medicare Part D plans more power to negotiate these discounts within the protected classes, which include antiretrovirals,” Azar said in his prepared remarks.

“I want to be clear about two things: First, we put forth our proposal because we want to expand patient access to antiretrovirals and other expensive drugs, by driving down prices. If, for instance, prior authorization requirements are getting in the way of take-up or adherence to HIV treatment, that would be of great concern to us,” he said.

“Second, we are going to be highly deliberative about this process: Please come to us with your concerns about our drug-pricing proposals. We are eager to listen—you represent a vital patient voice,” he added.

The proposal would give plans greater negotiating power by allowing them to impose step-therapy and prior-authorization requirements for protected-class drugs, even declining to cover some drugs altogether, if certain requirements are met.

That drew a swift rebuke from patient advocates, who warned the shift would impede progress in treating HIV and other serious conditions, such as cancer.

(Steven Porter is editor at HealthLeaders, an H3.Group brand publishing partner to Patient Advocate Review.)