Prime Insights

The CREATES Act: A viable solution for more affordable prescription drug choices 

Jonathan Gavras, M.D., FCCP | August 3, 2016

In June, Senator Amy Klobuchar, along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, introduced new legislation to tackle one of the biggest health care challenges facing Americans: rising prescription drug prices. Today’s prescription drug market is broken. The lack of competition in pharmaceutical treatments often leaves patients with only one choice for medicine. As history has shown, a non-competitive market very often leads to skyrocketing prices and this case is no different. Fortunately, Sen. Klobuchar’s legislation, the “Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples” Act (CREATES Act), provides a solution that could help give families more affordable prescription drug choices.

The bill is designed to increase competition in the prescription drug market by correcting a loophole in U.S. law some pharmaceutical companies are exploiting. Right now, pharmaceutical companies can circumvent Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-mandated regulations to block competitors from introducing generic alternatives to branded prescription drugs. It’s done by keeping those generic companies from getting samples of branded medications which are required by the FDA for testing. This bill would resolve the ambiguity and ensure companies that produce generic prescription drugs have the right to access the samples they need. In turn, the bill would help add more generic options to the drug market and give patients more affordable choices for their medications. What’s more – the bill is bipartisan, with backing from Democrats and Republicans alike.

As chief medical officer for Prime Therapeutics (Prime), a national pharmacy benefit manager headquartered here in Minnesota, I have seen the challenges high drug prices are causing our state. This bill comes at such a critical time as patients, families and communities in Minnesota are telling their stories and asking policymakers for solutions to lower prescription drug prices. The good news is that our elected officials are listening and the issue is gaining momentum on the campaign trail. 

Prime has been working to control drug prices through innovative prescription drug benefit designs and cost containment strategies that support access and use of affordable generic prescription drugs. Even so, we are limited in what we can do when there are very few generic or biosimilar competitors (biologic drugs that aren't identical but work similarly) on the market.

Another way we’re working to bring drug prices down is through our membership in the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP). This national coalition includes non-partisan, like-minded organizations representing hospitals, physicians, pharmacists, nurses, consumers and employers.  We are helping to lead the fight to help make medications affordable for patients and families, as we have seen the impact the broken pharmaceutical drug market has had firsthand. We have come together to support real solutions so that the medicines Americans need can be within their reach.

Because of the leadership of lawmakers like Senator Klobuchar, we have an opportunity to address one of the major drivers behind rising prescription drug prices with the CREATES Act. This bill is one important step toward lowering prices for medicines and giving families the financial breathing room they deserve. 

About Prime Therapeutics

Prime Therapeutics LLC (Prime) helps people get the medicine they need to feel better and live well. Prime manages pharmacy benefits for health plans, employers, and government programs including Medicare and Medicaid. The company processes claims and delivers medicine to members, offering clinical services for people with complex medical conditions. Headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., Prime serves just over 22 million people. It is collectively owned by 14 Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans, subsidiaries or affiliates of those plans. Prime has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the nation.  

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