Sen. Sherrod Brown stood in a central Ohio pharmacy recently and declared that pharmacists no longer will keep better deals on prescription drugs a secret from their customers.
During his media event, Brown said a federal bill lifting a gag rule put in place by billion-dollar companies in the drug supply chain was a start.
“We have to do much more,” he said.
How prescription prices are determined and how much consumers should be paying is still a mystery to the public. The complex drug-supply chain that includes drug manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers, wholesalers, insurers and pharmacists is a complex maze.
To help clear the confusion of drug prices, The Dispatch has launched a drug look-up tool that will give people a clearer picture of what their drugs should cost.
The tool, updated monthly, will give people who buy brand-name and generic drugs a better idea of how much they should be paying for drugs.
The drug price database can be found at Dispatch.com/sideeffects by clicking on the “drug price database” tab.
The numbers, which date to 2013, are gathered to give Medicaid departments a baseline of drug prices. But consumers can use these numbers to ask questions of their pharmacist, health-care provider and employers.
The prices come from the federal government’s National Average Drug Acquisition Cost (NADAC). The list is a national survey of community pharmacies of their invoice prices.
The database does not contain medications in a liquid form or inhalers because those medications vary widely on dosage and potency.
“While it’s not perfect, NADAC is hands down the best free public resource we have to get educated on the underlying prices of the medications our pharmacies purchase, and we consume,” said Eric Pachman, a former Dayton-area pharmacy manager and founder of the drug-price transparency website 46brooklyn.com. “We should all be using it to get smarter on drug prices.”
The Dispatch’s Side Effects project has been a yearlong effort to bring more transparency to the drug supply chain that State Auditor David Yost called “Goldbergian” in its practices.
Yost recently stood in front of a group of state legislators charged with overseeing the Ohio Department of Medicaid and told them that excessive and complex practices by pharmacy benefit managers are largely to blame for the hidden cost of prescription drugs.
Pharmacists and those pushing for more transparency said the drug price look-up tool will provide another level of transparency.
“The Columbus Dispatch has taken a largely unusable public dataset and turned it into a solid benchmark that adds a necessary piece to the drug pricing puzzle,” said Antonio Ciaccia, a lobbyist for the Ohio Pharmacists Association. “This tool will arm consumers with the information they need to start asking the right questions.”