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Drug Makers Sidestep Barriers on Pricing, NY Times

The pain reliever Duexis is a combination of two old drugs, the generic equivalents of Motrin and Pepcid.

If prescribed separately, the two drugs together would cost no more than $20 or $40 a month. By contrast, Duexis, which contains both in a single pill, costs about $1,500 a month.

Needless to say, many insurers do not want to pay for Duexis. Yet sales of the drug are growing rapidly, in large part because its manufacturer, Horizon Pharma, has figured out a way to circumvent efforts of insurers and pharmacists to switch patients to the generic components, or even to the over-the-counter versions.

It is called “Prescriptions Made Easy.” Instead of sending their patients to the drugstore with a prescription, doctors are urged by Horizon to submit prescriptions directly to a mail-order specialty pharmacy affiliated with the drug company. The pharmacy mails the drug to the patient and deals with the insurance companies, relieving the doctor of the reimbursement hassle that might otherwise discourage them from prescribing such an expensive drug.

Horizon is not alone. Use of specialty pharmacies seems to have become a new way of trying to keep the health system paying for high-priced drugs. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, which has attracted government and media scrutiny for its huge price increases, does much the same thing for its dermatology products with a specialty pharmacy called Philidor Rx Services.

“They are all trying to get rid of the sticker shock of using their drugs,” said Dr. Kenneth Beer, a dermatologist in West Palm Beach, Fla. “They become the drugstore now,” he said.

He said Valeant’s program, which he had used, buffered physicians from insurers and complaints from their patients about high prices.

“It lowers one barrier to using their products,” he said.

Valeant revealed last week that it had received subpoenas from federal prosecutors in Manhattan and Massachusetts seeking information about its financial assistance programs for patients, pricing decisions and the distribution of its products. It is not clear if the probes are related in any way to Valeant’s relationship with Philidor.

Philidor, based in Hatboro, Pa., reveals little about itself on its website. It was denied a license in California in 2014 because, the state said, its application had not truthfully identified its owners and financial officers. Calls on Monday asking to speak to Philidor executives were not returned.

Valeant had said little about Philidor until Monday, when J. Michael Pearson, Valeant’s chief executive, revealed on his company’s quarterly earnings call that Valeant had purchased an option to acquire Philidor late last year. He said that Valeant consolidated Philidor’s results in its own financial reports.

(Click here to read the full article, written by Andrew Pollack, NY Times)