John Carroll

The pharmaceutical giant says that its disease management program saved Florida $42 million, but a state watchdog group remains unconvinced.

John Carroll

Florida lawmakers may already have turned thumbs down on Pfizer's two-year-old Medicaid drug program, but the drug giant isn't about to just walk away quietly from the epic struggle.

Pfizer recently touted its own fresh analysis showing that its disease management programs saved the state more than $41 million over 27 months — well over the $33 million Pfizer promised when it put the programs in place in exchange for having all of its drugs listed without discount on Florida's Medicaid drug formulary. In addition, the drug giant said that the company had made drug donations and investments worth almost $20 million. And Pfizer said that it reached 150,000 people, triple its original goal.

That's everything that Pfizer promised to do and more, says Hank McKinnell, Pfizer's chairman and chief executive officer. And the company says the numbers should make the Florida legislature think again about killing the program. "The lessons we have learned in the past three years have important implications as both federal and state governments look for new ways to deliver better health care to patients with chronic diseases."

Alan Levine, the secretary of Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration, backed Pfizer up. "Partnerships like this one with Pfizer are good benchmarks for states to use as they, like Florida, struggle with the difficult balance between cost and outcomes."

But some of the program's critics immediately cautioned against betting on a comeback, or relying on any lessons from Pfizer.

"I'm sure that it will be brought up again," says Bernie Horn from the Center for Policy Alternatives, a "progressive" Washington think tank that tracks state health initiatives. "But I think it's unlikely that the [legislators] will reverse their decision."

Pfizer found itself fighting a rear-guard action against the legislature long before its contract had run its course.

It's chief nemesis: Florida's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, a state watchdog group that reported that once Florida made its deal to leave Pfizer's drugs on the list without discount, other pharmaceutical companies that might have cut their prices in order to compete for the business didn't see any need to discount. And the real savings to be had, OPPAGA added, was in rebates — not through Pfizer's DM program.

Those numbers from Pfizer, adds Horn, are just a rehash of earlier figures that the state had already rejected.

John Carroll, a freelance writer living near Austin, Texas, has been a Managed Care contributing editor for four years.

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