Independent pharmacists sound the alarm on Surescripts, GoodRx partnership

Independent pharmacists sound the alarm on Surescripts, GoodRx partnership

https://www.mobihealthnews.com/news/independent-pharmacists-sound-alarm-surescripts-goodrx-partnership

Some pharmacists are pushing back on Surescripts’ partnership with GoodRx, arguing the deal will hurt independent pharmacies and further obscure the high cost of drugs.

“The deal was touted as a move towards transparency; when in fact, coupon programs are bought and paid for by the same PBM [pharmacy benefit manager]-based, opaque pricing schema the deal claims to upend,” wrote a group of pharmacists and pharmacy owners in a letter to Surescripts’ board obtained by MedCity News.

The partnership between the health data giant and GoodRx, announced earlier this month, would integrate GoodRx’s discount information into Surescripts’ platform that allows prescribing physicians to see the drug’s cost for their patients. GoodRx’s negotiated discounts would only appear for the uninsured or patients whose price information isn’t already available from their PBM or insurer, the companies said.

“We are always looking for ways to increase prescription price transparency and affordability for more Americans, so we are excited to work with Surescripts to arm prescribers with the tools and information they need to choose medications that are both accessible and clinically appropriate,” Doug Hirsch, co-CEO and co-founder of GoodRx, said in a statement when the deal was announced.

In their letter, the pharmacists said GoodRx only displays prices for their pharmacy partners, which would leave out independent pharmacies. The pharmacists also argued the drug coupon app’s business model works within a system that obscures the high cost of drugs.

“If coupons did not exist, we would motivate further innovation around pricing and pricing reform,” they wrote. “In a coupon-free world, market forces would drive the pharmacy charging $268 for rosuvastatin (which costs $0.03/pill) down to a reasonable amount or suffer extinction.”

WHY IT MATTERS

Drug costs have become a huge policy issue in the U.S. Between 2019 and 2020, retail prices for 260 widely used brand name prescription drugs rose by 2.9%, more than two times faster than inflation, according to a report by the AARP.

A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis published in July found nearly 3 million Medicare Part D enrollees had out-of-pocket drug spending above the catastrophic level between 2015 and 2019.

Earlier this month, the White House called on Congress to reduce drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries by allowing Medicare to negotiate with drugmakers, limiting price increases to inflation and capping beneficiaries’ yearly out-of-pocket spending to around $3,000.

“And by the way, it isn’t just seniors who will benefit. This would lower prescription drug prices for all Americans,” said President Joe Biden in a press briefing. “And here’s how: If Medicare prices are available to private insurance companies, then it would reduce the cost of employer-based health insurance coverage.”

THE LARGER TREND

GoodRx, founded in 2011, filed documents to go public about a year ago. 

In March, GoodRx announced its first full-year earnings since becoming a publicly traded company. It brought in $550.7 million in revenue in 2020, a 42% increase from the year before. The company did lose $298.3 million in GAAP net income in Q4 alone and $293.6 million for FY2020, which GoodRx attributed to expenses related to its IPO.

For this year’s Q1, GoodRx reported first-quarter revenue growth of 20% year-over-year to $160.4 million, only slightly missing expectations. 

The company has also been picking up acquisitions, including prescription price transparency company RxSaver in May and health education video producer HealthiNation in April.

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