Academy plays key role in creation of AMA’s drug pricing website, TruthinRx.org

Earlier this month, the American Medical Association (AMA) launched TruthinRx.org, an interactive website designed to educate patients on rising drug prices and to empower physicians and the public to advocate against increases on medications. Bruce Brod, MD, explains how the AAD played a key role in the effort to create the website and shape the advocacy agenda.

M2M: How did you get involved in the AMA’s TruthinRx campaign?

brod-bruce.jpgDr. Brod: I was on the AMA task force on pharmaceutical costs along with the AADA's Ashley Cook. The task force was created in response to a resolution for the AMA to take action on pharmaceutical pricing. The Board of Trustees of the AMA appointed a 13-member task force designed to address the rise in pharmaceutical costs because it’s becoming more difficult for patients to afford drugs.

The task force consisted of some state medical societies, and because the Academy was so much of a leader in addressing drug pricing, we were one of five medical specialty societies invited to be on the task force.

We were charged to review AMA policy and collect ideas to help shape an AMA advocacy and grassroots effort to address the problem of rising cost drugs. We had six months to develop the advocacy plan and shape the priorities.

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The AMA's TruthinRx website is an interactive tool that helps the public and physicians advocate against rising drug prices..

The key priority in the first phase of the plan is to improve the transparency of the relationship and the pricing that’s determined by the pharmaceutical companies, the health plans, and the pharmacy benefit managers. Transparency is something that is common ground to all the representatives on the task force, and also in line with AMA policy.

The public is really in the dark about how pricing is set for medications. There’s concern that the value of the drugs is not really a priority when pharmacy benefit managers set the price in negotiations with the pharmaceutical companies and the individual health plans.

M2M: What’s the purpose of TruthinRx.org?

Dr. Brod: The new website is a very powerful grassroots tool to amplify the message that there is a lack of transparency and a lack of fairness in drug pricing. The site is designed for grassroots action for the public at large. The focus is to raise awareness and create a grassroots movement in all spheres of pharmaceuticals: generic and branded drugs, and specialty drugs, as well.

There are three parts to the website:

  1. It frames the message and problem to educate the public on the issues. It show examples of what rising costs mean. Immediately you can see the impact on dermatology because one of the examples used is the price jump in doxycyline, which is a drug commonly used by dermatologists. It describes the shadowy situation of how the middlemen—the pharmacy benefit managers—negotiate drug prices.
  2. Then it outlines solutions to the problems, underscoring the importance of transparency and creating an environment where the price of a drug needs to be justified. It also discusses the need to create policy for transparency with the pharmacy benefit managers.
  3. The grassroots section has a call to action with a templated letter that patients can send to legislators. Patients are able to submit their stories to the website and participate in social media campaigns as well.

M2M: How important was it for the AAD to work with the AMA on this effort?

Dr. Brod: The AAD played a key role in this effort. Many of the priorities included in this first phase were modeled after the AAD’s position statement on access to medication, which was very comprehensive. The priorities identified in this first phase that have been included within this interactive website are very much in line with the AAD’s priorities, in part because we had a voice in the project.

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