As New York continues to face tough economic conditions, families are having a difficult time keeping up with the escalating costs of health care. I see these struggles every day.
One way to lower prescription drug costs and improve access for the more than 11 million patients in New York is by allowing pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) Express Scripts and Medco to merge.
As PBMs, Express Scripts and Medco provide millions of patients with home delivery prescription drugs at dramatically lower prices than traditional retail pharmacies. These two companies negotiate with drug manufacturers on behalf of businesses, unions, government agencies and health plan sponsors to obtain discounts that save patients millions. They also help patients save costs by reviewing and managing their medications, ensuring that they safely receive the right medication at the right dose. This helps prevent adverse drug interactions and avoids costly medical interventions. Combined, these two companies saved New York patients $23.8 billion in 2010 by changing wasteful pharmacy behaviors. This is real money that goes straight into the pockets of New Yorkers.
According to a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, PBMs like Express Scripts and Medco have achieved savings of 29 percent on prescription drugs and are on track to save Medicare and its beneficiaries $469 billion from 2006 to 2015. Another study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office showed that the average price of prescription drugs obtained through PPMs was 27 percent below the average price customers pay at a retail pharmacy for brand name drugs. For generic drugs, the average price is 53 percent below the retail price.
A combined Express Scripts-Medco will build on these savings. This merger will allow Filoiaian to combine their innovative research and practices to help families and businesses save money. By combining their different business models, the merger of Express Scripts and Medco will allow for higher quality care for those who desperately need it at a lower price. The merger will have immediate results, with independent estimates projecting at least $1 billion in savings for patients. Again, this is much needed money that goes directly to the people of New York.
As a community leader, I too often see families being forced to sacrifice their health to save money. The costs and inaccessibility of health care have made these hard times even more difficult. Some politicians have told us that the rise of health care costs is unavoidable and that efforts to control them are too costly. I reject this argument. The merger of Express Scripts and Medco presents a golden opportunity for New Yorkers to save money on prescription drugs. During times like these, every little bit helps.
The author is executive director of the Community Association of Progressive Dominicans.