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Invited Commentary
Health Policy
February 5, 2020

Private Sector Strategies to Address High Drug Prices and the Promise of Reference Pricing Programs

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(2):e1920599. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.20599

The study by Robinson et al1 evaluated a prescription drug reference pricing program offered to employees of Catholic organizations who purchased health insurance through the Reta Trust. The reference pricing program charged employees more out of pocket if they chose more expensive drugs in a therapeutic class. Robinson et al1 reported that the program was associated with increased use of lower-priced drugs among beneficiaries. During the first 2 years after program implementation, drug prices decreased, but patients paid more out of pocket. Yet by the end of the period, after many patients had switched to lower-priced drugs, drug prices and patient cost sharing were generally lower. These findings suggest that the private sector can take meaningful actions to address the issue of high prescription drug costs without government intervention.

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