The Employer's Guide Blog for Overseeing PBMs

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A Closer Look into the Popular Pricing Benchmark: Average Wholesale Price (AWP)

Average Wholesale Price (AWP) is a list price that is used as a basis for reimbursement to pharmacies for drug ingredient cost.  AWP as a drug pricing benchmark has come under scrutiny as it doesn’t reflect what is actually paid for drugs and is often referred to as a “sticker price.”1  Wolters Kluwer Clinical Drug Information (WKCDI) publishes AWP prices via its Medi-Span® Price Rx® drug pricing tool and makes the following assessment2:
“Despite its name or possible use as an index, the AWP published by WKCDI is not an “average” of actual wholesale prices. It is not derived from, does not reflect, and should not be assumed to represent, either (i) the actual prices paid for drug products in transactions between wholesalers (meant to include any party that buys drug products directly from a manufacturer) and their customers, or (ii) any discounts, rebates or other price reductions that wholesalers may offer to their customers in connection with those transactions. In fact, a wholesaler or other direct purchaser from a pharmaceutical manufacturer may agree to sell its drug product to one or more of its customers at a price that is on its face or effectively different than the AWP published by WKCDI. “
The 2018 PBMI Trends in Drug Benefit Design Report, based on a survey of drug benefit leaders responsible for managing the prescription drug benefit for their organization, provided the Average AWP discount based on dispensing channel (e.g. Retail 30, Retail 90, Mail Order and Specialty).  The survey results showed that for generic drugs average AWP discounts ranged from 56% 
at retail 30 to 63% for mail order. Discounts on brand-name drugs were much lower with averages between 19% and 25% depending on channel.” 3

This data provides valuable insight into recent trends in AWP discount averages and ranges amongst stakeholders across the industry.  Although AWP isn’t the only pricing benchmark available, it is currently the most widely utilized for price discounts for brand drugs and generic drugs until generics are eligible for MAC pricing.  

A Chart of Common Drug Pricing Terms4
Click to Enlarge
1.AMCP Guide to Pharmaceutical Payment Methods, 2009 Update (Version 2.0). (2009). Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy,15(6 Supp A), 1-62. doi:10.18553/jmcp.2009.15.s6-a.1
3.  PBMI 2018 Trends in Drug Benefit Design Report

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