A pilot program announced this week seeks ways to use block chain technology to improve the prescription drug supply chain. “A permissioned block chain will provide an increased level of authority for patients and consumers, guaranteeing the drugs and vaccines they are receiving are not counterfeit, stolen, contaminated or harmful,” according to Craig Kennedy, senior vice president of supply chain at Merck, who is participating in the program with Walmart and technology partners IBM and KPMG. The new program is geared toward reducing the time associate with track-and-trace—a priority for the FDA based on its February program launch—and improving access and reliability. The potential for using the technology is vast, considering studies that have demonstrated that so much product is stolen, counterfeit, or damaged in transit. And while the so-called “porous” supply chain poses significant hazards to patients, it also adds significant cost to a system that has operated for decades in a black box.
On May 17, CMS announced its final rule on Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans with a range of measures seeking greater transparency and negotiating power. The proposed rule had excited extensive comment from healthcare providers and patient advocacy groups on one aspect of the rule: that Medicare Advantage plans will allow the use of “utilization management tools, such as step therapy, for Part B drugs,” which CMS believes will enhance the ability of Medicare A plans to negotiate Part B drug costs. Not so fast, say many healthcare providers who want to put legislative guardrails around the practice of step therapy and thereby put “patients and doctors back in charge of healthcare.” Groups like the Arthritis Foundation were vocal supporters last month at the introduction by Reps. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH)—both doctors—of H.R. 2279, The Safe Step Act. The federal legislation would require the establishment of a clear process for exceptions and impose time limits on insurer approval, and it mirrors many similar efforts at the state level. The National Psoriasis Foundation maintains a convenient map of activity in each state.