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AHIP chief Marilyn Tavenner blasts drug plans as Hillary Clinton proposal targets price hikes

Former CMS head says transparency can help rein in costs.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

AHIP chief Marilyn TavennerAHIP chief Marilyn Tavenner

America's Health Insurance Plans' President and CEO Marilyn Tavenner on Tuesday weighed in on what she called the "explosive growth in prices for prescription drugs."

Her announcement came amid the growing controversy over price hikes with pharmaceuticals and a recently announced plan by Hillary Clinton to reduce drug prices.

"Over the past several months, consumers -- as well as hospitals, providers, employers, and state Medicaid directors -- have grown increasingly frustrated by drug costs that show no sign of slowing down," she said in a statement. "Consumers are looking to policymakers and leaders of both parties to advance meaningful solutions to these cost challenges."

[Also: Closing the 'doughnut hole': Part D beneficiaries could see big drug savings in 2011]

Without naming the presidential candidate, Tavenner took aim at Clinton's recent proposal, saying it would not make drug prices more affordable. Instead, she advocated for transparency.

"Yet recent proposals that would impose arbitrary caps on insurance coverage or force government negotiation on prescription drug prices will only add to the cost pressures facing individuals and families across the country," Tavenner said. "We strongly believe that greater transparency around drug pricing and more competition in the market are critical to support sustainable, private-sector solutions that deliver the best value for patients and the health system."

Tavenner said Tuesday that AHIP supports encouraging alternative payment and incentive structures for new drugs and technology; shortening the exclusivity period for biologics to promote greater price competition and earlier access to lower-cost specialty drugs and biosimilars; prohibiting abuse of the patent process by drug companies; removing barriers at the state level that restrict the use of biosimilars; expanding research on treatment effectiveness; and promoting transparency on prescription drug research, development, and pricing.

[Also: CMS spent $103 billion on Medicare Part D in 2013, $2.5 billion on Nexium]

Earlier this week, Turing Pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli drew sharp criticism after his privately held company boosted the price of AIDS treatment drug Daraprim from a reported $13.50 a tablet to $750.

Turing acquired the drug in August. Daraprim treats toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that severely affects those with impaired immune systems, such as those with AIDS and cancer. Turing told Fortune that it hoped to spur investment to increase research to improve on the current formulation and seek to develop new therapeutics to eradicate the disease.

Critics have said the motive is pure greed.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America also took aim at Clinton this year for her plan to combat rising drug prices.

PhRMA President and CEO John Castellani said Clinton's proposal would kill jobs, risk patient safety and halt investment in new cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and cancer.

"Secretary Clinton's proposal would turn back the clock on medical innovation and halt progress against the diseases that patients fear most," PhRMA president and CEO John Castellani wrote in a statement.

[Also: Marilyn Tavenner tapped to run America's Health Insurance Plans]

He also accused Clinton of seizing on the "false notion" that medical spending is driven by increasing healthcare costs overall while ignoring the market's ability to "keep spending in check."

Clinton was expected to drop details of her long-awaited healthcare platform at a campaign event Tuesday in Iowa. She previewed the proposals in Louisiana and Arkansas on Monday, pledging to drive down the costs of prescription drugs by $100 billion over 10 years.

Clinton's plan would deny tax breaks for televised direct-to-consumer advertising and require drug companies that receive taxpayers' support to invest in research and development, according to a published source.

The Democratic presidential candidate's proposal would place a monthly cap of $250 on covered out-of-pocket prescription drug costs to help patients with chronic or serious health conditions.

Twitter: @SusanMorseHFN