Health Watch: Making medications affordable

Rising drug prices have been a nationwide trend, so much so that at a recent hearing regarding a proposed rate increase, the insurer ConnectiCare said it is now paying more for customers’ pharmaceuticals than for their in-patient hospital care.

However, a group of health providers out in Utah have banded together to try to buck that trend, by forming their own non-profit drug company, Civica Rx. It’s comprised of seven major hospital systems, and three philanthropic organizations. Organizers said they already have $100 million in funding, a CEO, Martin Van Trieste, who said he will work for free, and plans to produce 14 commonly used generic drugs that are currently in short supply.

"No patient, no family should have to be concerned that their child can`t get the cancer drug that they need to live," said Van Trieste, a former quality control officer at a pharmaceutical company.

"[It’s] the first of its kind, not for profit generic drug company, that is literally owned by society at large,” said Dan Liljenquist, a Senior VP at one of the participating health providers, “There`s no way for a penny of profit to be paid out to any shareholder. Just like any other industry, our customers should know what the price is."

Civica Rx officials said their pricing will be transparent, and should lead to a 20-30% price decrease in the drugs they produce.

"This is a model that is open to all. Everybody will receive the same price. Everybody will receive equal access to these drugs," said Liljenquist.

Civica Rx officials haven’t said what drugs it will produce yet, but the plans are to get them on the market by the middle of next year, and while that initially will entail working with current manufacturers, Civica Rx will eventually look into buying its own manufacturing facilities.

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