A silver lining to the drug-pricing uproar? For generic competition, yes, GPhA chief says

GPhA CEO Chip Davis

With drug prices dominating attention in Congress and agitating the public, GPhA CEO Chip Davis wants to be sure low-cost generics are top of mind as a way to save money--and he has some ideas to amp up their strength in the marketplace.

Answering some recent news about "extraordinary" generic price increases, Davis emphasized in a presentation on Monday that those hikes were few and far between in the copycat-drug universe. If you're looking for drug-cost drivers, look no further than specialty drugs, which in 2014 accounted for 31.8% of spending on 1% of the population, said Davis, who heads up the Generic Pharmaceutical Association.

And specialty pharma's share of drug spending is expected to hit 50% by 2018, Davis said in remarks prepared for a call with the media. Alternatively, generics make up 88% of prescriptions but account for 28% of costs, he said.

As a drug-pricing firestorm has grown since last year--touched off by high-profile price increases by Turing Pharmaceuticals and Valeant Pharmaceuticals--reports of big hikes have gone viral and made their way into daily conversation.

Among other companies, Mylan has found itself in a harsh spotlight for its multiyear, 400%-plus price increase on its anaphylaxis injection EpiPen. Some lawmakers have questioned why generic alternatives weren’t more available.

To that point, the FDA’s Dr. Doug Throckmorton is set to appear at a hearing tomorrow of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and he's expected to face questions about ways to speed alternatives to market. Mylan CEO Heather Bresch will also testify.

Davis said all of the pricing outcry “has the potential to bear positive results,” because it could lead to increased competition for branded meds. First, though, the generics industry will need to fend off efforts by some branded pharma companies to block competition.

Those include lobbying to hinder biosim uptake, opposing “a fair patent review process” and a push to defeat legislation that would “curb anti-competitive abuses that are being used to delay generic drug development,” Davis said. GPhA wants to see those tactics come to an end.

Davis' proclamation comes less than a month after a GAO report found that generic drug prices in Medicare Part D decreased significantly in recent years, as a group falling 59% from 2010 to 2015. But even still, the GAO noted that some drugs saw “extraordinary” price increases over the period, with their stickers growing by at least 100%.

GPhA examined those extraordinary hikes mentioned in the GAO report. For meds that had data publicly available, their average increase was 65 cents between 2013 and 2015. That meant an increase from an average of $1.62 to $2.28 per unit, according to figures cited by Davis.

Pointing to hikes such as those by Mylan and Turing, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton outlined a drug price plan earlier this month to tackle “excessive, outlier” price increases. She’s proposing a panel that would identify bad actors and then impose fines or other enforcement actions.

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