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Tufts Plan Forces Drug Price Cuts

July 12, 2000

BOSTON (AP) _ Tufts Health Plan, New England’s second largest HMO, has forced two drug manufacturers to cut their prices for two popular allergy drugs.

Tufts officials on Jan. 1 discontinued coverage of Claritin and Zyrtec and cut in half the covered dosage of Allegra, saying they were overpriced, while equally effective lower-priced alternatives were available.

After months of negotiations, Tufts officials said Schering-Plough, the maker of Claritin, and Aventis, the maker of Allegra, cut their prices. The two drugs are used by nearly 30,000 Tufts patients.

Zyrtec, made by Pfizer, Inc., is still not covered.

``It was a difficult battle for us to fight, but one we had to fight,″ Philip Boulter, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Tufts, said Tuesday. ``It sets a precedent that managed-care companies can put pressure on the pharmaceutical industry to price their products competitively.″

Boulter did not reveal the size of the price cut, but said it would enable Tufts ``to keep the premium under control.″

A Schering-Plough spokesman told The Boston Globe on Tuesday the company was glad the Tufts policy had changed, but he declined to comment on the pricing negotiations.

The new prices won’t take effect until 2001, so Tufts will not be able to resume coverage of Claritin and Allegra until January.

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