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What hospitals, payers, and pharma think about buying generic drugs from Intermountain's startup

Research found that 90 percent of providers would purchase medications from the joint venture but one group is not so happy.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

Credit: Google Street ViewCredit: Google Street View

The overwhelming majority of providers said they'd buy medications from a health-system-led pharma company, and both providers and payers believe other hospitals will follow the lead of Intermountain, SSM Health and Trinity Health in forming their own generic drug companies. But there is one group among those not entirely excited about the trio's work or the signal that other health systems could follow suit. 

[Also: VA, 4 health systems to form generic drug company]

Those are key findings from a survey conducted by Reaction Data to measure overall sentiment toward the disruptive venture, which was announced in January.

The nonprofit joint generic drug company called Project Rx is driven by four health systems; Ascension, Intermountain Healthcare, SSM Health, and Trinity Health, in consultation with the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Reaction Data gathered responses from more than 700 "influencers" in the provider, payer, and pharmaceutical industries with 605 participants from providers, 91 from big pharma and 53 payers.

While awareness of the venture was relatively low, with 60 percent of providers saying they were unaware of the project, positive responses abounded when it came to its potential success as 69 percent of providers and 58 percent of payers expressed optimism about the venture and 90 percent of providers said they'd be willing to become customers of the new company. 

Reaction said those results were due largely to a pervasively negative attitude toward big pharma.

For their part, pharma company respondents weren't too happy with the venture, with almost half expressing a negative attitude toward Project Rx and one saying the systems would be better off spending their money negotiating with drug manufacturers.

Most respondents, 81 percent, across all categories said they believed the venture was an effort to cut drug prices and 71 percent said it was intended to decrease the cost of care. Only 5 percent thought profit had anything to do with it, the survey showed.

Also, it seems providers and payers think other hospitals will use this venture as a model for other such companies. For providers, 77 percent said other hospitals would follow suit as did 63 percent of payers.

Reaction painted both sides of the picture though, pointing out that the venture faces many challenges, including whether the company would focus in on the right generics, its ability to scale, gag clauses, "clawbacks" and drug patents.

With support from providers, however, effective execution of operations could yield one of the biggest disruptions to the healthcare industry in decades.

"Based on other research that Reaction Data has done which show the open arms the healthcare industry is extending to outsiders, such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft (to name a few), it appears that providers, in particular, are hungry for change. Spiraling drug costs means that consumers are too," Reaction Data said.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
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