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The Strategic Response by Pharmaceutical Firms to the Medicaid Most-Favored-Customer Rules


  • Fiona Scott Morton


In 1990 the Federal Government included a Most Favored Customer (MFC) clause in the contract (OBRA 90) which would govern the prices paid to firms for pharmaceutical products supplied to Medicaid recipients. The firms had to give Medicaid their best (lowest) price in some cases, a percentage below average price in others. Many theoretical models have shown that an MFC rule commits a firm to compete less aggressively in prices. We might expect prices to rise following the implementation of the MFC rule, yet the work done to date on OBRA 90 has found this result somewhat difficult to show empirically. I also conclude that the effects of the law are small and relatively weak; however, the results are strongest where the product's characteristics match the incentives in the law. I find that after the MFC rule was implemented the average price of branded products facing generic competition rose - the median presentation's price rose about 4%. Brands protected by patents did not significantly increase price. Generics in concentrated markets should display a strategic response to the brand's adoption of the MFC. I find support for the strategic effect; generic firms raise their prices more as their markets become more concentrated. I find little change in hospital prices. The results suggest that the MFC rule resulted in higher prices to some non-Medicaid consumers of pharmaceuticals.

Suggested Citation

  • Fiona Scott Morton, 1996. "The Strategic Response by Pharmaceutical Firms to the Medicaid Most-Favored-Customer Rules," NBER Working Papers 5717, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5717
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Thomas E. Cooper, 1986. "Most-Favored-Customer Pricing and Tacit Collusion," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(3), pages 377-388, Autumn.
    2. Png, I P L & Hirshleifer, D, 1987. "Price Discrimination through Offers to Match Price," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60(3), pages 365-383, July.
    3. Png, I P L, 1991. "Most-Favored-Customer Protection versus Price Discrimination over Time," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 1010-1028, October.
    4. Crocker, Keith J & Lyon, Thomas P, 1994. "What do Facilitating Practices Facilitate? An Empirical Investigation of Most-Favored-Nation Clauses in Natural Gas Contracts," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(2), pages 297-322, October.
    5. Steven Salop, 1977. "The Noisy Monopolist: Imperfect Information, Price Dispersion and Price Discrimination," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 44(3), pages 393-406.
    6. Charles A. Holt & David T. Scheffman, 1987. "Facilitating Practices: The Effects of Advance Notice and Best-Price Policies," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 18(2), pages 187-197, Summer.
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    Cited by:

    1. Andrew Bernard & Joachim Wagner, 2001. "Export entry and exit by German firms," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 137(1), pages 105-123, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • L41 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Monopolization; Horizontal Anticompetitive Practices


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