AmerisourceBergen: Pharmaceuticals business has bright future

PHILADELPHIA — The pharmaceuticals business will begin picking up in 2014, AmerisourceBergen president and CEO Steve Collis said last week at the wholesaler's ThinkLive Manufacturer's Summit held here. "Next year is a slower brand-to-generic [trend] and in 2014 we’re going to see a resumption in that top-line growth rate [across the pharmaceutical industry in the U.S.] to a modest 4% growth," Collis said. "That’s not too bad," he added, especially when you compare that growth up against what's happening worldwide.

In the U.S., the number of boomers turning 65 years old will continue to climb in 2014 and beyond, which will serve as a strong tailwind behind overall health care. "With 50,000 baby boomers entering Medicare every day, healthcare spending's going to be a tremendous focus," Collis said. "It just has to be."

That focus on cost containment will afford manufacturers the opportunity to really frame their value proposition, AmerisourceBergen Consulting Services president Peyton Howell suggested, as payers seek more bundled services that incorporate improved patient health outcomes.

The number of newly insured as part of healthcare reform will be a strong tailwind in 2014, Howell added. "That's really when the benefits that we’re expecting [hit]," she said. "Those new lives, 30 million-plus lives, coming into eligibility either through the exchanges or through Medicaid … there are a lot of questions about that big piece of patients that a lot [in the pharmaceutical industry] are expecting to come into some form of healthcare insurance," Howell said.

There are several wildcards that could impact pharmaceuticals going forward, of course, not the least of which is the upcoming presidential election, Howell said. Excepting the insurance mandate, much of the healthcare reform already has been implemented, such as parents being able to extend coverage to their adult children, Howell said. But state elections may become a significant piece to the puzzle as well with the decision around whether or not to expand Medicaid in conjunction with healthcare reform again resting with the states. And if the economy remains sluggish, more citizens may qualify for that Medicaid coverage anyway.

The sluggish economy also may impact Medicare roles, Howell said. "Are we likely to see more means testing, for example, for Medicare eligible? All those baby boomers that we were referring to, as they come into Medicare eligibility is it likely that they'll be paying a greater share if their incomes are higher — yes," Howell predicted.

Another significant challenge facing the industry is the spate of new drug development; however, beyond 2014, drug development should pick up again, especially across the specialty channel. "New drug approvals are definitely harder to come by," Collis said, but the business of specialty pharmaceuticals will trend higher as the administration of those medicines expand beyond traditional care centers.


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