Over the last nine months we have sliced and diced generic drug pricing within Medicaid managed care to arrive at the conclusion that generic prices in Medicaid are subject to wild and seemingly arbitrary distortions. But the million dollar (or should we say $2 billion dollar) question is whether this problem is isolated to Medicaid, or if it is a broader issue plaguing Medicare Part D and Commercial plans as well? We now attempt to bring data into the fold to help answer this question. In this report, we embark on an in depth investigation into the pricing of the top 15 generic drugs in Medicare Part D - drugs that represented roughly a third of overall Part D generic spending in 2017. It turns out that the same arbitrary generic pricing behavior we have observed in Medicaid is alive and well within Part D. If you make it all the way to this report, you will be rewarded with all the math that estimates this problem to be worth over $2 billion in 2017.
Average Wholesale Price (AWP) is a meaningless benchmark price for generic drugs. This has been known for at least a decade, if not longer. But despite its lack of substance, AWP-based payment models just won't go away. Unfortunately the contractual reliance on a benchmark that has no relevance to actual price makes it very difficult for the payer to know if they are getting a good deal or not. They are left to pay a fixed discount off of an unknown combination of meaningless, non-market-based, numbers. Seems like that would be tough sell, but this is drug pricing we are talking about, so of course, it's the norm. For the past couple months, we compiled data to create a visualization to help illustrate the problem that arises by anchoring generic drug costs to AWP. The finished product is embedded in this latest report "Inside AWP: The Arbitrary Pricing Benchmark Used to Pay for Prescription Drugs," along with our observations and analysis.