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How Pharma Can Respond to the Drug Pricing Debate

While drug pricing transparency is not a topic that is easily explained, it is the topic when it comes to pharmaceutical access, an unavoidable focus that discussions on healthcare continue to highlight. Thus, the question becomes: Is it possible for a pharmaceutical company to usher in a discussion on transparency, embracing its complexity as a way to address market challenges and shift the debate away from specific drug pricing?


Public favor will not likely be won on the financial details of pharmaceutical costs. Success is more likely based on appealing to the end goal of patient benefits: access, quality of care, and value. However, patients worldwide are not “consumers” per se. The total cost of their treatment is offset by public and private health coverage. This leaves pharmaceutical manufacturers needing to satisfy the interests of myriad stakeholders and to do it across the world by understanding the varying needs of different countries and individual marketplace dynamics. Companies that prevail will have demonstrated their commitment to the solution, acknowledged the challenges of the marketplace, and appealed to stakeholders’ interests, possibly even shedding light on healthcare benefit design, and bringing attention to the real issues of system dysfunction.

Engaging in the Drug Pricing Debate on Your Own Terms


Our experience on long-term, chronic issues tells us that leaders must bring something new to the drug pricing debate in terms of novel thinking and communications efforts. This approach will enable companies to define themselves on their own terms while simultaneously engaging key stakeholders. The way to project a point-of- view that avoids the appearance of defensiveness or aggressiveness is to build on the feedback of influential stakeholders – assessing openness to the topic, mutual areas of interest, and relevance – to isolate the most viable conversation paths and frame the boundaries of the discussion.


Pharmaceutical companies have been negatively targeted over the years on drug pricing, both as singular manufacturers and as part of the global healthcare industry, but a proposed solution that effectively directs change or produces desired outcomes, has not yet emerged from the debate. This may be changing rapidly. In the U.S., influential research foundations including Pew and ICER have entered the conversation. Transparency-seeking legislation has been passed by 11 states and is gaining momentum in others. State-level activity like this drives national attention. Provisions seeking transparency in drug pricing were included in the administration’s 2017 proposed budget. Drug pricing will also be a significant theme in the U.S. presidential campaign over the next several months. The field of influencers is also expanding. There is a growing disease management movement. There are communities introducing new theories, new companies, and new partnerships that could present both challenges and opportunities for the pharmaceutical industry in its goal to engage on the issue in a way that demonstrates its commitment to patients and the system-nature of certain diseases and their treatment.


For more information contact Betsy Neville

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