Blue Cross Takes On Drug Marketers, Launches RxIntelligence

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Chicago, plans next month to begin providing corporate human resource managers, doctors and patients with a new weapon in the battle against rising drug costs.

The insurance group with the household name plans to accomplish that by launching RxIntelligence, a new not-for-profit independent company it expects will challenge the pharmaceutical industry's marketing forces.

Blue Cross said its new initiative is a reaction based in part on a marked increase in direct-to-consumer advertising by drug companies, which it said has forced prices up and encouraged consumption of medically unnecessary products.

Scheduled to be up and running by June 10, RxIntelligence is designed to provide unbiased information about the cost and effectiveness of leading prescription drugs in the marketplace.

In a published report, Scott Serota, acting president/CEO of Blue Cross group, said his organization will "arm physicians, patients, employers and plans with information about the value of these pharmaceuticals." There was "not a lot of unbiased research about the efficacy of pharmaceuticals and their impact on individuals."

To maintain independence and gain the respect of consumers, Blue Cross said RxIntelligence will be run by an independent governing board of a dozen healthcare industry members.

Blue Cross recently partnered with Health Insurance Association of America on the development of a new study revealing that costs for consumer drugs in the United States nearly doubled since 1993, topping $100 billion last year alone. According to the report, that figure will double again within four years.

Last year, the pharmaceutical industry reportedly spent an estimated $1.8 billion on direct-to-consumer advertising.

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