The year began with a prediction from Senator Mitt Romney to pharmaceutical executives that “change is coming”. There have been high profile hearings on the topic in the Congress and legislation that moved in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. There have been initiatives by the Administration in the wake of a blueprint issued but which has mostly gone nowhere. And the FDA has generated record numbers of approvals in generic drugs and issued policy documents to address two means of importation from other countries. All in all, there has been more talk than action.
But what of the talk? What did the conversation reflect from the past year?
Perhaps one of the most striking answers to that question is related to the emergence of the Institute of Clinical and Economic Review – ICER – from perhaps what could be described as the background of the issue of pharmaceutical pricing to the forefront. A non-profit that has been around since 2006 with a goal of providing a model framework for evaluating medicines for their value versus their cost, ICER has been steadily growing its presence in the media around the issue for a while. But this year in particular, the organization is not only being mentioned more in media coverage on the topic of pharmaceutical pricing, it is having an impact in actual costs and in coverage decisions. In short, ICER had not only a quantitative expansion of presence, but a qualitative impact as well.
This did not happen by chance. Part of the reason for the increasing profile of ICER in the media is of course that pharmaceutical pricing was a premium topic last year. But it is more than that. ICER issues a press release at every juncture of its milestone-ridden process and sends out a weekly report that summarizes its activity as well as overviews media mentions for the organization. In short, the organization has carefully cultivated its media profile.
In a white paper published this week, my colleague Adam Silverstein and I examined the public discourse respecting pharmaceutical pricing in 2019. We look at media coverage of the issue – both the drivers of coverage and the stakeholders involved, in particular the ascent of ICER. You can download the paper here.